A winter storm with blizzard potential began hitting the Northeast on Thursday, forcing the New York Racing Association to alter its schedule and prompting the New York Islanders to offer fans a nice option.
NYRA canceled live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack for Friday, and post times at the track were moved up Thursday so the last race could go off a half-hour early, around 3:45 p.m., though no snow had yet hit the area.
"Given the poor weather forecast, we made an early decision to cancel Friday's racing so as to minimize any inconvenience to our customers, horsemen and employees," said Eric Wing, director of communications for NYRA.
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 to 10 inches of snow predicted by Friday, the National Weather Service said. Areas from Buffalo to Albany were expecting up to 14 inches.
The Islanders hosted the Chicago Blackhawks at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night, and the home team gave fans who didn't want to drive to the game the option of exchanging tickets for a future weekday game this season, starting Saturday. As an added benefit for fans who did attend Thursday night's game, hot dogs and sodas were $2 apiece and the fans also will be able to exchange a used ticket voucher under the same policy, though ticket exchanges are subject to certain restrictions, including ticket availability.
The University of Miami men's basketball team was scheduled to practice in Syracuse University's Carrier Dome on Friday night in preparation for the Hurricanes' Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the No.2 Orange on Saturday. Pete Moore, director of athletic communications at Syracuse, said he was not aware of any cancellations.
In Buffalo, N.Y., the men's basketball game scheduled Saturday between South Dakota State and Buffalo was postponed.
In Hamden, Conn., the men's basketball game scheduled for Thursday night between Iona and Quinnipiac also was postponed. It was rescheduled for Monday night.
A weather service forecaster said cold temperatures would be as significant as the snowfall. A high temperature of 15 was predicted for Friday in New York City, which would make it the coldest day there since Jan. 10, 2004, while wind chills as low as 15 degrees below zero were expected.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the Long Island Expressway would close at midnight in Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York State Thruway will be closed from Albany south to New York City. Cuomo said plans are for the highways to reopen at 5 a.m. Friday.
Elsewhere, live racing at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa. was canceled for Thursday night due to the impending snowstorm.
"We're supposed to get somewhere between three and five inches," said Fred Lipkin, director of marketing. "It's really gray. The winter hasn't been that great."
The central Pennsylvania track, which also had a day wiped out last week by the weather, will resume live racing on Friday night.
"If we get three to five inches, we'll have another one (cancellation) tomorrow," Lipkin said.
The storm wasn't expected to hit Lake Placid, N.Y., but some snow showers and flurries were possible Friday morning and dangerous wind chills as low as 30 below zero were expected. The late-afternoon temperature on Thursday in New York's Olympic village was minus 9 and was expected to reach nearly 20 below on Friday night.
"Nothing is on hold here," said Jon Lundin of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the Olympic venues in the region. "It's just cold —I mean, cold."
The storm couldn't have come at a better time for USA Luge. It's hosting an event at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Massachusetts a week from Saturday, where sports enthusiasts will be able to experience the sport with help from USA Luge Olympians, international medalists and coaches.
"This is the perfect storm," USA Luge spokesman Sandy Caligiore said. "The entire region is getting snow, and there is cold weather to also continue snowmaking. The combination of more natural and man-made snow will create excellent conditions for the Norton Luge Challenge. It's possible that we could discover some future Olympians on that hill."
At a similar event seven years ago at Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania, Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. was discovered, and now she's headed to the Sochi Olympics in a month.
AP Sports Writer Ira Podell in Uniondale, N.Y., contributed to this report.