NEW YORK (AP) — New York City public schools were closed Friday after up to 7 inches of snow fell by morning in the first snowstorm of the winter — and the first test of new Mayor Bill de Blasio hours after he was sworn in.
"It would have been nice to have a calm first day, but we have snow on our mind, and we are focused like a laser on protecting this city and getting everyone ready," de Blasio said Thursday about the snow barreling toward the city.
Newly appointed Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made the decision to call a snow day for 1.1 million students shortly before 5 a.m.
The Federal Aviation Administration said John F. Kennedy International Airport was closed at 6:12 a.m. due to snow but was expected to reopen at 8:30 a.m.
The snowstorm came about three years after de Blasio criticized predecessor Michael Bloomberg for failing to lead a quick cleanup in all parts of the city. Days passed before de Blasio's Brooklyn block was cleared.
"I intend to be on top of the action," the new mayor vowed.
With the frigid, windy storm approaching from upstate New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered three major highways extending from Long Island to Albany closed overnight Thursday. The Thruway between Albany and the Bronx reopened for passenger vehicles at 5 a.m. Friday and was scheduled to reopen to commercial vehicles at 8 a.m. The Long Island Expressway was set to reopen at 8 a.m. Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders also were to remain closed to commercial and passenger vehicles until 8 a.m.
The governor's unusual decision came as New York City and its northern suburbs were under a winter storm warning and Long Island was under a blizzard warning, with wind gusts up to 45 mph and up 10 inches of snow predicted by the time the storm ends sometime between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday.
The National Weather Service said 8 to 10 inches of snow could hit the city, and areas from Buffalo to Albany were expecting up to 14 inches.
The storm dumped up to 18 inches of snow in the Rochester area by late Thursday, while up to 14 inches was reported Friday morning in parts of eastern New York.
About 5 inches had fallen in Central Park by 4 a.m. and as much as 7 inches in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. Parts of Long Island got 7.3 inches by early Friday.
"This is nothing to be trifled with," Cuomo said, declaring a state of emergency statewide. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."
The New York City Office of Emergency Management issued a hazardous travel advisory into Friday, warning that roads likely would be icy and snow would continue to drift.
"Residents should drive slowly, monitor weather and traffic, use major streets or highways, and keep the name and number of at least one local towing service," OEM said in a statement.