The Capital Region braced Thursday for its biggest snowstorm of the winter, with snow emergencies declared in some cities and dozens of flights canceled today at Albany International Airport.
The National Weather Service in Albany changed an earlier winter storm watch to a more serious winter storm warning on Thursday afternoon. Between 10 and 14 inches of snow are expected today through Saturday morning in many parts of the region.
But there is still some uncertainty about the complex storm system, including when the heaviest snow will fall.
A coastal storm coming up the mid-Atlantic coast will mix with a colder air system coming across the Great Lakes from Canada, said Evan Heller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. The timing of when the heaviest snow will fall is still questionable, but Heller said it looks like the heaviest snow will fall between 8 p.m. today and 6 a.m. Saturday.
Snow was to start falling lightly before dawn today and continue through the day before getting very heavy tonight, with snowfall rates of as much as an inch an hour possible.
“It should be over with by noon [Saturday], with partial clearing before sundown on Saturday,” Heller said.
Everything from sporting events to state Civil Service exams were already rescheduled Thursday. Snow emergencies have been declared from 9 p.m. today to 9 p.m. Monday in Saratoga Springs and starting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Amsterdam. The snow emergencies regulate where and when cars can park on city streets to make snow removal easier.
In Schenectady, when three inches or more of snow falls on the city’s dozens of marked priority streets, parking is illegal on those streets.
“The best thing for people to do is to get their cars off the streets,” said Carl Olsen, Schenectady’s general services commissioner. “If you don’t have to travel, don’t.”
Olsen said his department is expecting anywhere from 6 to 18 inches of snow, depending on how the storm tracks.
Most school officials in the region were waiting until early this morning before making a decision on closing school. Superintendent Michael Piccirillo of the Saratoga Springs City School District said the timing of when the heaviest snow will fall is a major factor in deciding whether to close schools.
Most districts in the region have not yet used any of their snow days.
“We will more than likely cancel all after-school activities,” Piccirillo said.
At Albany International Airport, dozens of flights were already being canceled by some airlines Thursday afternoon. Cape Air has canceled all flights to and from Albany today and Saturday. Delta Airlines has canceled departing flights after 4:30 p.m. today, and United Airlines has canceled all outbound flights after 10 a.m. today, according to Doug Myers, airport spokesman.
“Travelers are advised to check their airline to determine the status of their flights,” Myers said.
Myers said airport staff and airlines are preparing for between 10 and 14 inches of snow today through Saturday.
In other cancellations, many sporting events scheduled for today and Saturday have been cancelled or postponed. The Section II Division III and IV indoor track and field sectional meet scheduled for Saturday at the University at Albany has been rescheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17. The state qualifying indoor track and field meet will be moved to Feb. 24, and the Great Dane event will be canceled.
State Civil Service exams scheduled for Saturday will instead be held Saturday, Feb. 16. All state test centers will be closed Saturday because of the weather, according to the state Civil Service Department.
The coastal storm is expected to hit New England much harder than upstate New York. A blizzard of potentially historic proportions threatens to strike the Boston-Providence-Hartford area with a vengeance today, with up to 2 feet of snow feared along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor from the New York City area to Boston and beyond.
Before the first snowflake had even fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school today, and airlines scratched more than 1,700 flights, with the disruptions certain to ripple across the U.S. United Airlines said it has canceled 900 flights in advance of the storm in the Northeast. Delta Air Lines Inc. canceled 740.
Amtrak says it’s suspending train service in New York and New England. “This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. “Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.”
The snow is expected to start in New England this morning, with the heaviest amounts falling at night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 65 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.