US snow: National Weather Service admits forecast error

Media caption,
New Yorkers ask what happened to "snowmageddon"

The US National Weather Service (NWS) has admitted its forecasts were wrong, after predicting a "potentially historic blizzard" would strike New York City.

The city was largely spared as the storm piled deep snow on Connecticut and Massachusetts.

City mayor Bill de Blasio denied he had overreacted to warnings, saying he could only go on information available.

Blizzard warnings remain in effect for Maine and eastern New Hampshire.

"Rapidly deepening winter storms are very challenging to predict," the NWS wrote on its Facebook page.

"The storm has moved further east and will be departing faster than our forecasts of the past two days.

Media caption,
Mayor Bill de Blasio:"We had to take precautions to keep people safe"

"The result is much less snow than previously predicted for the western half of our region," it added.

On Monday, an emergency was declared in a swathe of north-eastern states, and meteorologists predicted up to 90cm (36in) of snow. Officials later downgraded the numbers.

The New York City authorities imposed a driving ban - since lifted - and took the unprecedented step of shutting the subway.

But on Tuesday, New Yorkers awoke to a blanket of snow less deep than feared, and since then city life has been getting back to normal.

"Would you rather be prepared or unprepared? Would you rather be safe or unsafe?" asked Mr de Blasio, defending the moves.

"My job as the leader is to make decisions and I will always err on the side of safety and caution."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The snow did not hit New York City as heavily as predicted

Analysis: Nick Bryant, BBC News, New York

Shutting down the New York subway system, for the first time in its history because of snow, can easily be viewed in retrospect like overkill. So does bringing in a car curfew, which banned non-emergency vehicles from the streets from 23:00 on Monday night.

Walking the empty streets of Manhattan pre-dawn, and seeing the snow, we all found ourselves asking the same question: "Is that it?"

It reminded me of that scene from Crocodile Dundee, when Mick Dundee is confronted by muggers wielding a switchblade. "That's not a knife," he says, pulling out a much scarier weapon. "This is a knife."

That's not a storm, some New Yorkers told us, as they made their way to work muttering that Bill de Blasio had got it badly wrong.

Other areas of New York state saw much heavier snowfall, with "blizzard conditions" across Long Island, according to the NSW.

A teenage boy was later killed in a sledging accident in the area.

Worst affected elsewhere were Connecticut and Massachusetts, with the heaviest snowfall recorded outside Boston - 91 cm (36 in) of snow in Lunenburg by Tuesday night.

In Connecticut, an elderly man collapsed while shovelling snow. He died later in hospital on Tuesday.

At the scene: Gary O'Donoghue, BBC, Scituate, Massachusetts

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Gary O'Donoghue reports on the impact of the storm on the town of Scituate in Massachusetts

Flooding is a big threat here. The town of Scituate is bracing itself for a high tide in the coming hours and the neighbouring town of Marshfield has already had its sea wall breached.

Some along this coast have already been evacuated from their homes and the streets are largely empty of people.

The storm is expected to continue to whip the eastern part of the state until early Wednesday - and only after that can a true assessment be made of its impact.

The storm also caused coastal flooding in Massachusetts. High tides breached a sea wall and damaged 11 homes in Marshfield, 50km (30 miles) south of Boston.

The state's only nuclear power station shut down after the blizzard interrupted its power flow.

Thousands of people are still without power, more than 45,000 of them in Massachusetts.

But Governor Charlie Baker said the snow had been "fluffier and lighter" than anticipated, meaning there were fewer power cuts.

Flights are set to resume early on Wednesday at Boston's Logan International Airport, along with trains to New York and Washington.

But air travel remains disrupted, with more than 800 flights cancelled, according to

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Some people enjoyed snowboarding in Brooklyn after the storm on Tuesday
Image source, AP
Image caption,
The blizzard brought up to 85cm (33.5in) of snow in Connecticut by Tuesday night
Image source, EPA
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Snow ploughs worked overnight to clear drifts in Massachusetts
Image source, AP
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The strong winds are expected to continue into early Wednesday
Image source, AP
Image caption,
More than 10 houses were damaged along the coast in Marshfield by flooding

"The wind here is tremendous, it's difficult to see very far out the window," said Christie Craigheard in New Hampshire, another of the affected areas.

The NWS is still warning of potentially life-threatening conditions along the New England coast, as the storm heads north into Canada.

Meteorologists expect the snow to continue into early Wednesday in eastern New England.

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