Vast winter storm targets US East Coast; more than 1,000 flights cancelled

An expansive winter storm bore down on the East Coast on Monday, scuttling more than 1,000 U.S. flights and threatening a treacherous commute on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend.

Reuters| Updated: Feb 16, 2016, 02:47 AM IST

Washington: An expansive winter storm bore down on the East Coast on Monday, scuttling more than 1,000 U.S. flights and threatening a treacherous commute on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend.

As much as 5 inches (13 cm) of snow was expected to blanket Washington by nightfall, with less accumulation in New York City, before turning to freezing rain and then rain amid rising temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

"It could be pretty tricky for the morning commute on Tuesday," he said.

The New York City Emergency Management Department issued a travel advisory for Monday and Tuesday, warning residents about potentially slick roads and possible coastal flooding.

After record-breaking cold, intensified by gusting winds, gripped the Northeast over the Presidents Day weekend, temperatures at the beginning of the work week on Tuesday were predicted to rise as high as 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) in New York and 53 degrees (12C) in Washington. Mild temperatures were expected to stretch into the coming weekend.

"This system pushes the Arctic air out of here," Burke said.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, more than 1,000 U.S. flights were cancelled, most of them at Washington, North Carolina and New York area airports, according to FlightAware.com, the flight tracking website. Many airlines waived change fees as more flights were scrapped.

Washington`s streets were nearly empty because of the holiday and from the snow falling in heavy, wet flakes. Neil Emery, 54, a tourist from Nassau, Bahamas, said he, his wife and daughter had been shocked by the bitter cold but were revelling in the snowfall.

"It`s very Christmas-y, really," he said. The cold weather "is a good excuse for hot chocolates through the day."

Flash flood warnings were issued for Monday for northern Mississippi, which was pounded by heavy rains that also drenched Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The vast storm stretched to western parts of Pennsylvania and New York, where Buffalo was expected to get more than 12 inches (30 cm) of snow.

New England ski resorts, struggling through a relatively warm and snowless winter, may receive up to 5 inches (13 cm) of snow, meteorologist Burke said.