An arctic cold front that is expected to bring rapidly dropping temperatures and sustained wind is threatening to wreak havoc on holiday travel in the New York City area. The potent mix of plummeting temperatures, still-falling rain and receding floodwaters in inundated coastal areas might tempt many to just stay home.
The National Weather Service forecasts single-digit wind chills that could quickly freeze any standing water into black ice overnight Friday — right at the start of a 10-day travel period during which upwards of 11 million people were projected to pass through Port Authority airports or drive on its crossings.
“This is an epic statewide hazard,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a storm briefing in Latham early Friday afternoon. “There's no other way to describe this. This is having an impact everywhere.”
By early Friday afternoon, hundreds of flights had been canceled into and out of the region’s major airports. Hochul said there were currently no plans to close them.
“We're not anticipating these closures because of this,” she said, cautioning that plans for the airports could change with high winds.
The governor declared a state of emergency for all of New York late Thursday, signaling the wide breadth of a storm that could affect every corner of the state, though there were no statewide travel restrictions as of early Friday afternoon.
Officials at the governor’s storm briefing urged New Yorkers to avoid road travel altogether, saying flash freezes would cause treacherous conditions throughout the state. People traveling through New York City were urged to take the subway.
“At this moment, I call it a kitchen sink storm because it is throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink. We've had ice, flooding, snow, freezing temperatures and everything that Mother Nature could wallop at us this weekend,” Hochul said.
Mayor Eric Adams was not in New York City Friday. Instead, First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo held a news conference where she and several others briefed New Yorkers on the city’s response.
Zach Iscol, the commissioner of the city’s emergency management agency, said first responders and other city officials were monitoring conditions across the five boroughs.
Rain combined with tidal flooding and offshore winds had created a “difficult weather event,” he said.
Parts of Southeast Queens saw significant flooding. Iscol said the city along with the Red Cross will open two service centers in Queens, one in Hamilton Beach and another in the Rockaways, where residents experiencing flooding can pick up cleaning kits and arrange to stay in hotel rooms.
Because of the anticipated drop in temperatures tonight, the city dispatched teams to find homeless individuals living on the streets and bringing them to shelter.
As of early Friday afternoon, city officials said they had no plans to close roadways.
Subway service was operational, though some lines saw delays on Friday evening. Southbound E trains were running at slower speeds as transit workers removed water from the tracks, according to a tweet from NYC Transit.
Staten Island Ferry service had resumed with residual delays and a modified schedule as of 9 a.m. after it was halted due to flooding and high winds earlier in the morning. It will largely operate on an hourly schedule between 11 p.m. Friday until 7 a.m. Saturday, though service is canceled altogether between 2 and 3 a.m., the Department of Transportation said in a tweet. The NYC ferry to the Rockaways was still suspended due to high winds as of early Friday evening; ferry service to the Dumbo and Ferry Point Park landings were also suspended, among other disruptions.
Long Island Rail Road service on the Long Beach Branch line remained suspended as of Friday evening due to flooding. The Far Rockaway Branch line continues to experience delays. There were also partial delays on several Metro-North lines also due to flooding and high winds.
Trains out of Penn Station has now been restored to or close to schedule after issues from a “track condition” in one of Amtrak’s Hudson river tunnels was cleared up, according to NJ Transit.
All of the New York City-area airports remained open as of early Friday evening — but there are significant cancellations and delays, so the Port Authority is recommending that travelers check with their airlines before leaving their homes.
JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport each saw hundreds of canceled or delayed flights throughout Friday and into Saturday, with departures and arrivals both hit hard.
FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, showed LaGuardia was hit hardest as of late Friday morning, with at least 362 cancellations and 105 delays as of 11:30 a.m.
The disruptions could significantly hinder the Port Authority’s prior forecast that 4 million passengers would utilize its airports this holiday season, which would have been a near-return to pre-pandemic levels.
Floodwaters caused some residual traffic issues across the metro area, according to New York State’s Department of Transportation. Empty tractor trailers were banned from crossing bridges across the metro area due to high winds.
“Anyone going out on the roads will probably want to do it later this afternoon or evening, or wait at least later until the day tomorrow just in case there are any issues with ice,” cautioned Bryan Ramsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Authorities have been warning of the potential for flash freezes and black ice if residual water left over from flooding remains on the roadways as temperatures drop into the teens by early evening Friday. “Watch out for some icy roadways.”
If you’re taking a bus into or out of the city, make sure to check with your carrier before departing. As of late Friday morning, Greyhound had canceled all service from the city to Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo through Saturday at 10:40 p.m., according to the Port Authority.
Christina Farrell, the first deputy commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said the office didn’t see widespread traffic Friday morning, which she took as a sign that New Yorkers had either moved up their travel or were waiting out the storm.
She urged New Yorkers to sign up for Notify NYC for the latest travel updates, and suggested Saturday might be a safer time to navigate the roadways.
“Everybody needs to just be a little patient, just be careful,” she said. “It’s really just taking it slow and taking precautions.”
The story has been updated to include the latest information on mass transit and air travel. The story has also been updated to accurately reflect First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo's title.