Winter storm wreaks havoc across northern parts of nation

NEW YORK — Some holiday travelers got an extra day of vacation Thursday — albeit waiting in an airport — as a giant winter storm barreled through the Midwest, heading for the Northeast.

As of late morning, 1,735 flights had been canceled and more than 5,000 delayed, according to the website FlightAware, as heavy snow continued fell in cities including Albany, N.Y., and Chicago, where eight inches blanketed the region in a 24-hour period. It has been snowing on and off in parts of Illinois since New Year’s Eve, with 17 inches of accumulation in some places.

Nathaniel LeCapitaine, 31, was trying to get back home to Superior, Wis., where it was 8 degrees below zero. But he got a text Wednesday night informing him that his flight from Chicago to Duluth, Minn., had been canceled. So he sat at New York's LaGuardia airport, waiting for a delayed flight to Chicago, where he would have to wait again. He'd been in town to see a Phish show, and was supposed to be back home Thursday night. Now, he was forced to spend the day waiting in New York and the night waiting in Chicago.

"It's a lot of sitting around and waiting, but what can you do?" he said. "It's bad weather."


The storm is heading northeast, where it is expected to cause whiteout conditions and dangerously cold wind chills.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York from 6 p.m. Thursday night until 1 p.m. Friday. A winter storm warning is in effect in the rest of the New York City area. New York is expected to get six to 10 inches of snow.

While the brunt of the storm will bear down Thursday night and Friday morning, temperatures will warm to 46 by Sunday, according to the weather service.

Forecasters had predicted this would be a snowy winter in the Northeast, especially because temperatures are very cold for a few days and then warm up suddenly, which traps the cold air in Canada. Each time the weather warms up, forecasters say, cities such as New York can expect another snowstorm to follow. This storm alone could handily surpass last year's January snowfall. In 2013, only 1½ inches of snow fell in New York City in January.

In Boston, which is expected to get even more snow, the city has already canceled schools for Friday and issued a parking ban. The city is also encouraging residents to use public transit, rather than drive, into Boston.

“Extended vacation one last gift from Mayor Menino to students of Boston,” the city said in a news release. Thomas Menino steps down Jan. 6 after serving as mayor for 20 years.

The Boston area is expected to get up to 14 inches of snow, with the heaviest falling Thursday evening. Highs may be around 12 degrees. This is nothing new for the city, though. Last year, in February, the city got 24.9 inches of snow in one storm.


Twitter: @AlanaSemuels