Winter weather emergency declared for NYC ahead of blizzard

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NEW YORK CITY — As a powerful winter storm moved up the Eastern Seaboard Friday, New York City's mayor declared a winter weather emergency for the metropolis and warned residents to be prepared to stay inside for the entire weekend while predicted blizzard conditions battered the five boroughs.

The emergency is not a travel ban but it does mean that all unnecessary driving should be avoided, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a 1:30 p.m. news conference Friday to share updates on the city's storm preps. Any cars in the way of city plows will be towed, he said.

It begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, when the heaviest snow is forecast to begin, and will last through the day, de Blasio said. He urged New Yorkers to be ready to stay home Saturday as well as Sunday.

With 300,000 tons of salt and 2,300 sanitation employees working around the clock, the city is preparing for 18 inches of snowfall, the mayor said.

"This storm is very dynamic," he said. "We should recognize that the 12 to 18-inch prediction is one that could change again, it could get worse."

PIX11 Weather Center's models suggest accumulations in the five boroughs will be between 6 and 12 inches, leaning slightly toward the higher amounts.

In addition to blanketing the city with snow, whipping winds and whiteout conditions forecast to accompany this storm could create potentially life-threatening issues.

For heat and hot water problems, New Yorkers should call 311 for help. For emergencies or if there is any danger to life, call 911, the mayor said.

"If you see a homeless person in distress on the streets, call 911 immediately so we can do something about it," he said.

To that end, the mayor and the leaders of both the NYPD and FDNY urged New Yorkers to stay off the roads so emergency vehicles can navigate the streets. In past storms, those emergency crews have had trouble being blocks by cars.

As for transportation, any cars blocking plows will be towed and all New Yorkers are urged to stay off the road.

Noting that the MTA and the state would ultimately decide whether to shut down transit -- as was the case this time last year when a blizzard was forecast to hit the city but did not pack as powerful a punch as was predicted -- de Blasio said that as of Friday afternoon, it looks as though the subway system will be largely unaffected by the storm.

The powerful system will hit during a full moon meaning high tides will be exacerbated and could create coastal flooding. A 3-foot storm surge is expected across the Jersey shore while a 2 1/2 to 4-foot surge is predicted to lab the shores of Long Island and New York City.

No evacuations have been ordered but there are 16 evacuation centers ready to open "in a matter of hours" should they be needed, de Blasio said.

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