Heavy rain, gusty winds and possibly isolated tornadoes will sweep across New York City and the U.S. Northeast today, disrupting air travel, forecasters said.
The main threat will be winds of 30 to 40 miles (48 to 64 kilometers) per hour and heavy rain, said Gary Best, a meteorologist at Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. The storms will probably reach New York between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., he said. An inch (2.5 centimeters) an hour of rain may fall in New York City, causing minor flooding, according to the National Weather Service.
“I strongly encourage all New Yorkers to take extra precautions and stay tuned to local media reports for the latest information on today’s storms,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
A tornado watch, meaning the storms are possible, stretches from upstate New York to northern Virginia, including New York City and Philadelphia, until 5 p.m. according to the National Weather Service.
JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU:US), the biggest domestic carrier at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, told travelers today on its website that service may be delayed across 10 airports in the northeastern U.S., from Boston to Washington. Air Canada (AC/B), that country’s largest airline, waived rebooking fees for passengers traveling to and from seven New England airports.
Delays rippled out from airports along the East Coast. By 1 p.m., flights departing Ronald Regan Washington National Airport were delayed as long as 90 minutes, according to industry data compiler FlightAware.com, while arrivals were running more than 40 minutes late at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and JFK.
“This is the time of the year when the weather can get a little violent, and if everything gels together just right, you get these situations,” Best said by telephone. “The conditions are ripe for a couple of isolated tornadoes and, if it does occur, it will be mainly this afternoon.”
A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for just east of Utica, New York south into northeastern Pennsylvania, according to the weather service. Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph are possible.
Cuomo told New York residents to heed storm warnings, avoid flooded streets and tie down lawn furniture and other objects that could be hurled by gusting winds.
“Weather conditions can change with little warning, so it is important that New Yorkers take appropriate measures to ensure their preparation and safety throughout severe weather events,” he said.
The clash of cold air moving into the U.S. Northeast from the west and a pocket of warm and humid air already there will set up just the right conditions for rain, thunderstorms and maybe an isolated tornado, said Mark Paquette, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
“It should cause some major headaches,” Paquette said by telephone. “Anytime you have winds, there will be delays, and not only that, but there will be blinding downpours, so certainly expect delays and possibly shutdowns.”
Eastern Pennsylvania, northwestern New Jersey and the lower Hudson Valley as well as the Catskills have a 5 percent chance of experiencing the destructive storms, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Elsewhere in the Northeast, the odds of a tornado forming are about 2 percent.
Several trees have already been reported knocked over by winds from the front in Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the storm center. About 4,389 electric customers in both states have lost power, including 1,600 in Richmond, according to utilities.
Paquette said the weather pattern reminds him more of something that would happen in August or July.
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