Winter Storm Nemo has yet to unleash a torrent of snow on New York City, Boston and the entire Northeast, but travel in the region is already a nightmare.
Airlines pre-emptively canceled more than 3,000 flights scheduled for Friday and another 1,000 for Saturday, according to FlightAware.com. Half were into or out of New York City’s three main airports, with hundreds more at Philadelphia International, Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare and Toronto Pearson. The cancelations had a ripple effect across North America.
United Airlines took the biggest hit from Winter Storm Nemo, axing nearly 500 flights on Friday. Delta Air Lines (305), JetBlue (266) and American Airlines (186) had major service disruptions as well.
Powerful winter storms a decade ago would have caused passengers to sleep in airports or sit on planes for hours hoping to take off. Now, carriers typically waive ticket-change fees and cancel flights long before a storm arrives to help cut the number of stranded travelers and flight-crew members. Canceling flights well enough in advance also keeps planes out of harm's way and allows airlines to resume service faster after the storm passes.
“As the storm moves into the Northeast and New England regions [Friday], we’re moving our planes and our crews out of its path to ensure the smoothest possible return to operations once we’re able to take to the skies again,” a representative from JetBlue, a leading airline in the Northeast with hubs in New York and Boston, said on Friday. “We expect the storm to pass by Saturday afternoon, but a full return to normal operations will be dependent on airport conditions as well as the conditions of the roadways and public transportation around the airports.”
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(For a complete rundown of airline cancelation and rescheduling policies, view IBTimes’ breakdown HERE).
By Friday morning, the high winds and blizzard conditions associated with Winter Storm Nemo forced Amtrak to suspend some routes that run through the busy Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak will reduce service on its Acela Express and Northeast Regional routes between New York and Boston. Southbound service from Boston South Station will be suspended after the departure of Northeast Regional train #137 at 1:40 p.m., while northbound service out of New York Penn Station will stop following the departure of Acela Express train #2160 at 1:03 p.m.
The Springfield Shuttle, Vermonter and Downeaster will also shut down midday.
“Passengers who have paid but choose not to travel due to this service disruption can receive a refund or a voucher for future travel,” a spokesperson said early Friday morning. “Some tickets booked online that have not yet been printed can be modified or canceled on Amtrak.com or by using the free Amtrak mobile app.”
Amtrak will announce changes to Saturday’s service by Friday afternoon.
In New York, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road have added additional trains midday Friday and say they’ll likely begin canceling some services on Friday night. The subway system will remain operational, though some express trains will end early.
The Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority has said all services will be suspended on all modes effective 3:30 p.m. Friday.
“The suspension of service will also allow MBTA and MBCR personnel to concentrate all of their efforts on getting the transit system, from subway to bus to commuter rail, up and running as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.
Winter Storm Nemo has the potential to blanket cities from New York to Boston with what could be historic snowfall totals.
The heaviest precipitation is expected across New England from Connecticut to coastal Maine, while portions of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are bracing for more than two feet of snow.
Weather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said Winter Storm Nemo could be one of the “top 10 snowstorms” on record for Boston, while Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist at Accuweather, warned that snow may fall at a rate of up to four inches per hour at the height of the storm.
“While the drive to work or school may be manageable but slippery Friday morning, weather conditions for the drive home will grow worse by the minute in southern and central New England,” Sosnowski warned. “A person traveling northeastward from New York City to Boston Friday evening along I-95 would encounter increasingly challenging and potentially dangerous weather conditions. With such intense snowfall, vehicles can become stuck and people can become stranded.”
As always, anyone traveling by air is encouraged to check the status of their flight before heading to the airport, and those traveling by car should monitor the progress of Winter Storm Nemo and check with local authorities to stay up to date on road conditions.