By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The second winter storm in a week blew into New York and surrounding states on Wednesday, with intensifying snowfall that delayed or canceled flights and threatened to snarl the evening rush hour as thousands remained without power from the last nor’easter.
Between 8 and 12 inches (20 and 30 cm) of wet, heavy snow, some of it accompanied by thunder and lightning, were forecast for New York City and surrounding New Jersey and Connecticut suburbs through Thursday morning.
Wind gusts could create “near-whiteout conditions” for commuters, the National Weather Service said.
The service bumped up its snowfall estimates on Wednesday morning, with up to 2 feet (60 cm) expected in some inland parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The heaviest snow was expected in Maine, where up to 18 inches was possible.
The storm will spread with varying degrees of intensity across the Northeast, from western Pennsylvania up into New England, the service said.
Around half of all scheduled flights were canceled at the three major airports serving New York City, according to the tracking service FlightAware. The website said 9,587 flights had been delayed and 3,076 canceled, most of them in the Northeast, as of 4:30 p.m. (2130 GMT).
All schools were closed in Philadelphia, while other schools across the region canceled classes or shortened the school day ahead of the storm, local news media reported.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy ordered many state workers to head home early on Wednesday afternoon at staggered intervals to avoid traffic snarls on slippery roads.
This week’s storm was not forecast to have the hurricane-strength winds whipped up at times by the storm last week, but forecasters say strong gusts of 60 miles per hour (96.56 km per hour) and accumulated snow will still be enough to knock down more power lines.
Last week’s storm brought major coastal flooding to Massachusetts, killed at least nine people and knocked out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses in the Northeast.
Some 100,000 homes and businesses in the region remained without power on Wednesday.
The governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency, giving them access to support from the U.S. government if needed.
The Amtrak passenger train service canceled some Wednesday trains between Washington and Boston, as well as some services in Pennsylvania and other parts of the Northeast.
The storm got off to a slow start in New York City, with Michelle Boone, 50, not even bothering to unfurl her umbrella as she waited for a bus.
“This evening could be different, though,” she said, saying she was prepared for a tougher slog home.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey and Dan Whitcom in Los Angeles; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)