CLOSED: Winter Storm Stella Takes Aim at Northeastern US and Eastern Canada
Tags: Air Canada, airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, blizzard, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, National Weather Service, Nor'easter, snow, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin America, weather waiver, WestJet, winter, winter storm, Winter Storm Stella
Winter Storm Stella is taking aim at the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada early this week. As of Sunday afternoon, winter storm watches extend from Northern Virginia to Maine, with a blizzard watch in effect for coastal areas between New York City and Boston. Depending on your location, the snow may begin falling as soon as Monday evening, and could last into Wednesday for some areas. For the New York City and Boston areas, expect the worst impact to be felt on Tuesday.
(Updated Tuesday March 14, 8:45AM EDT) A northern shift in the line of snow-sleet is now causing the forecast storm totals to be significantly reduced for New York City and other major cities, though LaGuardia is already reporting 5.9″ of accumulation. Conditions are still difficult for all forms of transportation with high winds and very low visibility.
For the roads, New York City officials are expecting a “relatively normal” commute for Wednesday morning, but are urging people to remain off of the roads for the remainder of Tuesday while crews work to clean the streets.
(Updated Monday March 13, 6:55PM EDT) The NYC Subway’s previously mentioned “underground only” service plan will take effect at 4:00AM. At this time, a decision on the service plan for Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road is planned for 4:30AM tomorrow morning.
(Updated Monday March 13, 6:10PM EDT)Flying Delta into the Northeast this evening? Check your flight status as 150 flights have been cancelled for Monday evening as the airline attempts to keep most of its aircraft away from the path of this storm. Expect other airlines to do this as well.
Transit systems throughout the region are beginning to put their plans for the storm into place. You can expect commuter rail systems to operate on a weekend schedule or less tomorrow. Some systems may suspend service entirely. NJ Transit is suspending all bus service as of midnight tonight, and all rail service with the exception of the Atlantic City Line will operate on a weekend schedule. The New York City Subway will be suspending all express service as of midnight. It is expected that they will operate their “underground only” contingency plan during the day tomorrow, eliminating service to large sections of the city. Local and express bus services in NYC, as well as Metro North and Long Island Rail Road commuter trains are all subject to service suspension, though nothing has been announced at this time. In Philadelphia, Septa Regional Rail will operate a Saturday schedule, with weather detours to a laundry list of bus routes and and bus service subject to suspension. In Boston, MBTA commuter rail is currently planned to operate a reduced schedule on Tuesday.
Updated Monday March 13, 5:35PM EDT) Shortly after 4:00EDT, the National Weather Service upgraded many areas from a winter storm warning to a blizzard warning. It is important to note that while blizzards are often associated with heavy snowfall and high winds, the principle criteria for a blizzard is visibility of 1/4 mile or less for a prolonged time (typically 3 or more hours). Even outside of the blizzard warned areas, this storm is expected to produce very high snowfall rates and amounts, along with winds of 25 miles per hour or greater.
At this point, most international carriers flying into Philadelphia, Newark, JFK, and Boston have cancelled their flights arriving tomorrow. The few that we have seen not cancelled yet have waivers in place so that passengers can change flights free of charge. Washington-Dulles is more of a mixed bag, with some carriers cancelling while others are hoping to still fly.
In general, if you are hoping to fly out of Philadelphia, Newark, LaGuardia, JFK, Bradley (Hartford/Springfield), Boston, or any of the smaller airports in the region tomorrow, it is almost assured that your flight will be either cancelled or severely delayed. In the slim chance that your flight does operate, it is very likely that you will be unable to access the airport as roads will be come impassible and many transit systems will be shut down. If you have travel scheduled for tomorrow from any airports in this region, and you have not already rebooked your flight, now is the time to do so. Even a storm that winds up being significantly weaker than is forecast will still leave a foot of snow on the ground tomorrow.
(Updated Monday March 13, 4:10PM EDT) Let us all welcome Allegiant Airlines to the weather waiver party. They are the final major US airline to announce one, which applies to 6 airports in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Maine. The waiver is in effect from today through Wednesday. The airline will also not accept any unaccompanied minors (under age 18) from airports under the weather waiver.
(Updated Monday March 13, 3:15PM EDT) Hawaiian Airlines has implemented a weather waiver for all flight to JFK between now and the end of the day on Wednesday. The waiver applies to flights operated by Hawaiian, as well as those ticketed by Hawaiian but operating on codeshare partners. In addition, this evening’s Flight 50 departure from Honolulu and tomorrow’s Flight 51 departure from JFK have been cancelled.
(Updated Monday March 13, 1:50PM EDT) American Airlines has issued a long list of flight cancellations for tomorrow. All flights from New York City area airports (JFK, LGA, EWR, and SWF) have been cancelled on Tuesday. In Boston, only flights scheduled for before 8:00AM will operate. At their Philadelphia hub, all flights before 5:00PM will not operate. And at Washington-Reagan National, all flights before 8:00AM on Tuesday are cancelled. Expect other airports in this region to be similarly impacted.
(Updated Monday March 13, 1:00PM EDT) All British Airways flights to/from JFK, Newark, and Philadelphia have been cancelled on Tuesday. Their only flight in Boston will be an early morning departure to London-Heathrow. They currently expect at least some of their flights to Baltimore and Washington-Dulles to operate, though with a modified schedule.
(updated Monday March 13, 6:25AM EDT) Over the last 12-15 hours, the consensus of the various weather models has narrowed the most likely track for the impending storm to become more of a direct hit for the New York City area. Blizzard warnings have been issued for coastal New Jersey, New York (including the eastern half of Long Island and all of Westchester County), and a swath of Connecticut including all of Fairfield and New Haven Counties. Winter storm warnings cover the remainder of the area from Northern Virginia to all but extreme Northern Maine. The blizzard watches north and east of the Connecticut-Rhode Island state line have been discontinued in favor of winter storm warnings.
Meanwhile, the forecast snow totals for the NYC Area have been increased by several inches in many areas since our last update. Snow totals in the Boston area have been reduced somewhat, though this is still a major storm for that area that can be expected to bring a foot of snow or more to that area. Expect more adjustments to the forecast as Monday progresses.
Cathay Pacific has cancelled 3 of their 4 daily JFK flights for March 14th, including the YVR-JFK-YVR segment of CX888/889. No other international carriers with a significant presence in New York or Boston have announced any changes at this time, but expect that to change over the next 12 hours.
With any waivers or cancellations, it is best that you attempt to rebook as early as possible, as the best available options go quickly. Expect long hold times for any airline calls, and consider holding off on making any changes that aren’t for travel in the next few days. Remember that airline agents on the phone and in the airport are dealing with a large number of inconvenienced passengers during this time. A bit of kindness and understanding will go a long way with them.
(Updated Sunday March 12, 3:00pm EDT) Here are the current forecasts for the most likely snowfall for the New York City and Boston offices of the National Weather Service. Although there is always some level of uncertainty with a storm of this magnitude, the last 24 hours have seen the forecasts from each of the National Weather Service offices in the Northeast begin to align with each other.
Many airlines already have weather waivers in place for the coming storm. American Airlines and United Airlines were the first to join the party on Friday afternoon. Southwest Airlines joined them later Friday evening. Waivers are now also available for Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. Allegiant Airlines is the only major US airline that does not currently have a waiver in place as of press time. Among Canadian airlines, both Air Canada and Westjet have weather waivers up for the coming storm. ANA and Japan Airlines have cancelled some or all of their flights into and out of the affected airports, particularly JFK, on Tuesday. Emirates Airline also has allowed travelers flexibility in the coming days. We expect that more airlines, especially the international carriers, will add travel waivers over the next 24 hours. Check back for periodic updates. In any event, contact your carrier if you’re flying in or out of the Northeastern or Mid-Atlantic United States or Eastern Canada (including Toronto and points east) in the coming days.