Will Winter Storm Riley Affect Flights? The Northeast Is Going To Get Hit Hard


The northeast is getting pummeled by a serious no'reaster, with high winds, coastal flooding and heavy snow battering America's eastern seaboard. It's should come as no surprise, then, that Winter Storm Riley also affecting flights across the country, with thousands of cancellations reported so far.

According to FlightAware, there were over 4,000 delays and 3,000 cancellations of flights to, from or within the U.S. on Friday. Not surprisingly, the most heavily affected airports were LaGuardia, Newark, Boston Logan International and JFK, all of which are clustered in Riley's path. But northeastern travelers aren't the only ones facing setbacks on account of Riley: The Tennessean reported on Friday that more than ten flights to and from Nashville were either cancelled or delayed due to the storm conditions in the northeast.

"Many airlines proactively cancelled flights last night and this morning in anticipation of the forecasted winds," FlightAware's Sara Orsi said in a statement Friday afternoon. "This has reduced broader impact to operations and will help them recover their schedules faster." She added that she and the FlightAware team "expect this situation to improve by tomorrow morning."

One flight traveling through the storm was hit with so much turbulence that almost every passenger on the plane vomited, according to a pilot's report. Most major airlines, including JetBlue, American, Delta, United and Southwest, are offering travel waivers to passengers affected by Riley's wrath, according to Travel & Leisure.

In addition to flights, ground transportation has also been impacted by Riley. Amtrak temporarily suspended all service along the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Boston, according to the Associated Press, as well as one track on the Washington-Maryland corridor. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in eastern Virginia was also closed for part of Friday.

"Despite our best effort to restore service between BOS and WAS today, we have determined at this time it is not safe to do so," Amtrak Northeast tweeted on Friday. "Hazardous conditions for our customers & crews have led us to cancel all Amtrak service on the Northeast Corridor until tomorrow."

New Jersey Transit passengers faced hour-long delays all afternoon thanks to Riley, according to the New York Daily news, while Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road and the Port Authority Bus Terminal were all hit with smaller delays on Friday.

Although Riley only made landfall late Thursday, it's already proven fatal: According to the Weather Channel, five people across the northeast have been killed by falling trees or branches that were knocked over by Riley's winds, which topped 90 miles per hour in Massachusetts on Friday. Over 1.6 million homes and businesses are without power as a result of the storm, according to the Weather Channel, and high wind warnings or watches are in effect as far south as northern Georgia.

"Take this storm seriously!," the Boston division of the National Weather Service warned on Twitter. "This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast, esp those ocean-exposed shorelines; moderate to major flooding; locations becoming inundated, cut off for periods of time; expect structural damage, homes destroyed."

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Friday afternoon in anticipation of the storm's damage, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has activated 200 National Guard members to help manage Riley. Baker told the Associated Press that officials in his state expect "more severe flooding issues here than we did in the Jan. 4 storm," a reference to the "bomb cyclone" that hit the Bay State days into the new year. "Bomb cyclone" refers to the process of bombogenesis, which is when a storm undergoes a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure.

Riley is also expected to become a bomb cyclone. As a result, its wind field will likely be bigger than that of a Category 1 hurricane, Meteorologist Ryan Maue told USA TODAY.