Hundreds of flights were canceled and schools were shuttered Tuesday before a single snowflake hit New York City, as residents and officials braced for a predicted snowstorm.
Airlines had canceled hundreds of flights in anticipation of the blast of winter weather, said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokeswoman Jennifer Friedberg. As of early Tuesday evening, US Airways had canceled all the following day's operations at LaGuardia Airport, and Continental Airlines had canceled all flights out of Newark Liberty International Airport and most out of LaGuardia.
Forecasts called for about 8 to 13 inches of snow and strong winds across the New York metropolitan region Wednesday. Transportation officials prepared plows and salt spreaders to deal with the storm.
The potential snowfall prompted officials to take the unusual step of canceling school Wednesday for the 1.1 million students in the public school system. Snow days are rare, with the last two coming on March 2, 2009, and Jan. 28, 2004.
Tourists were having their plans canceled, too, as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island closed to visitors because of the expected weather. Some city hotels were offering discounted rates for travelers stuck in town because of the snow.
In the suburbs, MacArthur Airport had canceled all flights for Wednesday, and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano issued a statement urging all residents to stay home. The Department of Transportation was updating the state's 511 hot line with information on road conditions.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York City decided to close schools early so parents could have time to make alternative plans.
"You might as well make it right now and give people more time to prepare," he said.
Bloomberg said officials also want to avoid exposing students to the possible blizzard-like conditions forecast for the afternoon. It is easier on families to close school for the day rather than let children leave early, he said.
The early timing of the decision to close school was in contrast to the 2009 snow day. Bloomberg's administration decided relatively late - 5:39 a.m. - to call the snow day, prompting a last-minute scramble and complaints from parents and teachers, some of whom said they were not even aware that school was canceled.
Although schools will be closed, Bloomberg said city agencies would be open and that city employees should show up to work.
He called on commuters to rely on mass transit instead of driving and warned anyone considering getting behind the wheel: "You're going to be stuck on the roads for who knows how long."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
PROGRAMMING NOTE: The PIX Morning News will air from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10 with special coverage of the impending snow storm.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times