Hercules Is Coming, Prepare Yourself

The year's first big winter storm, the aptly-named Hercules, isn't wasting any time: Hercules is all set to hit the Northeast and New York State. It'll dump up to a foot of snow from Thursday afternoon onwards, and is generally aiming to "raise havoc," in the words of the National Weather Service. The area's residents are already stocking up on provisions and buying generators.

And in a city of 8.33 million, the storm will likely prove to be brand-new NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's first Herculean labor (geddit?) as NYC is placed under storm watch, with 3 to 7 inches of snow forecasted.

"There will be travel problems," said Albany, N.Y. meteorologist Hugh Johnson, in the understatement of the (new) year. "It will be very cold."

Hercules is meandering over from the Midwest, where it left about six inches of snow in Chicago, and up to a foot in storm-ravaged Michigan — parts of which were recently without electricity for up to a week after an ice storm hit. The last major snowfall there is expected late Thursday afternoon as the storm packs up for the East, but already hundreds of flights out of Chicago O'Hare International Airport have been canceled, following 600 cancellations yesterday at Chicago airports.

"We are looking at a serious storm situation," said New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Nearby Long Island, under blizzard warning, is also expected to get pummeled, with 8 to 10 inches of snow and winds around 45 m.p.h.

Boston, however, is being a little tougher, even with the prospect of up to 14 inches of snow. "We are New Englanders — we get snow and we get cold weather and we're hardy," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's press secretary Dot Joyce said.

And after the storm leaves late Friday, things aren't going to get much balmier. The coldest temperatures to hit the Northeast and New York City in five years are expected to sweep in with highs just above zero, as de Blasio turns the focus of his first days in office to storm management.

"This will be first test, and he's got to pull it off as close to flawlessly as he can," said City University of New York professor Douglas Muzzio. "He's got to send the message, 'I can run this joint.'"