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Thursday, January 2, 2014

From Chicago to Boston, Winter Storm Creates Havoc for Travelers

For millions of people from Chicago to Boston, the first days of 2014 began with canceled flights, hazardous driving, postponed classes and curtailed business operations. Heavy snow blanketed major roads across the Midwest on Thursday as a fierce winter storm headed toward the Northeast, with blizzard conditions in the forecast for much of coastal Massachusetts and parts of Long Island.

Air travelers faced thousands of delays and cancellations across the country Thursday, according to FlightAware’s online, real-time interactive map.

FlightAware, an online flight-tracking service, shows the percentage of delays and cancellations across the country in red on its MiseryMap in real time.

The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut dismissed state workers early on Thursday and urged businesses to get their employees off the road before the heaviest snow, cold temperatures and strong winds arrived Thursday evening.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York declared a state of emergency and ordered several major highways shut down from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday, including the Long Island Expressway and the New York State Thruway south of Albany.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey also declared a state of emergency and shut state offices on Friday.

Using social media, emergency management officials, mayors, governors and meteorologists urged people to prepare for the storm, warning that wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour could lead to power failures and produce snowdrifts and low visibility on major highways.

In Massachusetts, the National Weather Service issued concerns about coastal flooding and frigid temperatures as it expanded its blizzard warning to the North Shore after initially limiting it to the southeastern part of the state.

Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts issued warnings to residents on Twitter to “minimize outdoor activities.”

The Massachusetts State Police shared a photo of an accident on Interstate 91 southbound that involved a tractor-trailer. It occurred as a speed reduction to 40 miles per hour was put in place on several major roads in New England, including I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike.

In New York, the heaviest snow was expected Thursday night into Friday, with blizzard conditions forecast for parts of Long Island. Nine inches was expected to fall in New York City.

As my colleague James Barron reported, New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, said his administration was prepared to handle the storm.

In Chicago, Detroit and other cities across the Midwest, heavy snow created dangerous driving conditions Thursday.

In Palatine, Ill., northwest of Chicago, residents reported 18 inches of snow and shared photos with local television stations.

Not everyone had a problem with the winter weather, according to this dog’s owner.

From Washington to Philadelphia, snow began falling late Thursday afternoon and was expected to pile up. But the strong winds that were creating the near-blizzard conditions were to the north, with Cape Cod and Suffolk County on Long Island expected to be hardest hit.

The Weather Network, based in Canada, reminded people what factors define a blizzard.