Snowstorm shuts down US East Coast; Pinoys told to brace for it

A man uses a snowblower to clear a path in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cities from Boston to New York and Philadelphia began shutting down Monday against a monster storm that could unload up to 3 feet of snow on a region of more than 35 million people. (AP Photo)

MANILA (Updated) -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asked Filipinos in northeastern United States to heed the warning of local authorities regarding the snowstorm that has made New York City look like a ghost town early Tuesday.

The snowstorm blanketed New York and disrupted life for tens of millions of people along the US East Coast. Although it didn't live up to expectations, New York had an almost eerie feel to it. No airplanes in the sky and no trains running underground made for an unexpected quiet. Light snow fell steadily early Tuesday in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets.

Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a text message that the Philippine Consulate General in New York is advising an estimated 354,000 Filipinos in the US northeastern states "to heed the warnings and reminders of local authorities and to keep themselves informed of developments."

The consulate general in New York has jurisdiction over the affected states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

It is "closely monitoring the situation," Jose said.

Reports said that about one to three feet of snow that is expected to cover the northeastern states could paralyze that part of the country for days.

Forecasters said the storm is starting to build up into a blizzard, and the brunt of it will be felt on Monday and Tuesday.

But early Tuesday, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying Boston and the northeastern New England region would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected.

The whole of Manhattan was shut down on Tuesday as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called this "one of the largest blizzards" ever to hit the state.

De Blasio urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: "People have to make smart decisions from this point on."

New York City's entire transit system was shut down. Many of the Filipinos living there would no longer be able to go to work as the subway is shut down, and cars are not allowed to park along streets and highways or they risk being fined $300.

More than 7,700 flights in and out of the northeast were also canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.

Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service said Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could get the most snow, about two feet (half a meter). New York could see up to 20 inches (50 centimeters), Hartford, Connecticut, up to two feet (half a meter), and Philadelphia and central New Jersey about six inches (15 centimeters).

The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile (400-kilometer) swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.

On Monday, life abruptly stopped across the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews.

In New Jersey, plows and salt spreaders remained at work on the roads Monday night in Ocean County, one of the coastal areas that was expected to be among the hardest hit. There was a coating of snow on the roads, but hardly any vehicles were traveling on them, as residents seemed content to stay indoors and monitor the storm in comfort.

Most businesses in the area had gone dark, including some convenience stores and gas stations.

On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange stayed open and said it would operate normally Tuesday as well.

Utility companies across the region put additional crews on standby to deal with anticipated power outages. (CVB/AP/Sunnex)
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