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‘Potentially historic’ blizzard targets NYC

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THE COURIER/File photo

Updated Monday, Jan. 26, 6:55 p.m.

A crippling storm that could be one of the largest blizzards New York City has ever experienced is shutting down public transit, closing schools and restricting travel on roadways as it’s expected to bring two feet or more of snow.

After declaring a state of emergency for all New York counties south of Sullivan, including the entire five boroughs, earlier in the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a travel ban on all state and local roads in those areas starting at 11 p.m. Monday. Only authorized emergency vehicles will be allowed on those roads, and a violation of the travel ban is punishable as a misdemeanor that includes fines of up to $300.

“This blizzard is forecasted to be one of the worst this region has seen, and we must put safety first and take all necessary precautions,” Cuomo said. “Commuters and drivers need to get home as quickly as possible before the storm completely cripples our transit networks and roads.”

The governor also said the MTA and Port Authority public transit systems will be suspending service beginning at 11 p.m. Monday.

Only 1 to 3 inches was forecasted for the day Monday, but heavier snowfall is expected Monday evening and during the day Tuesday before tapering off that night, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). A blizzard waring is in effect until midnight Tuesday, with snowfall estimates at 20 to 30 inches and gusts as high as 50 mph, which will likely create whiteout conditions.

There is also a coastal flood warning for northern Queens from 3 to 7 a.m. Tuesday, and a warning for southern Queens from midnight through 5 a.m. Tuesday

‘“You can’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a weather briefing Monday afternoon.

“People cannot be caught off guard,” he added.

De Blasio urged New Yorkers to remain inside if possible, telling them to stay off the roads and even to keep walking to a minimum because of slippery conditions.

The mayor also asked people to stay out of city parks because of the potential for falling branches, saying they will be closed as of 6 p.m.

The city’s public schools remained open on Monday, but will be closed on Tuesday. All Monday school trips, after-school programs, PSAL and evening adult education programs were also canceled.

Ahead of the storm, the Department of Sanitation issued a “snow alert” starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday and will be deploying its snow fighting equipment as needed. According to the mayor, there will be 2,400 workers per shift on 12-hour shifts and 2,300 vehicles with snow-plowing ability, plus 250 more pieces of equipment coming from other agencies this evening.

Alternate side parking will be suspended Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to help with snow removal, but payment at parking meters remains in effect. Garbage and recycling collection will also be suspended.

By the time the sun returns on Wednesday, the storm could be one for the record books, according to the NWS, which called the blizzard “potentially historic.”

De Blasio was confident at a Sunday storm briefing that the snowfall would be among one of the largest to hit the city, citing records that date back to the late 19th century.

“This literally could be one of the top two or three largest storms in the history of this city,” he said.

The current record holder is a February 2006 storm, when 26.9 inches of snow fell in Central Park over a 16-hour period.

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