Blizzards Batter US East Coast, Heaviest December Snowfall in Six Decades, Travel Comes to a Standstill, 4,000 Flights Cancelled, NYC Airports Shut

Travel comes to a standstill as blizzards batter US east coast (Guardian):

More than 3,000 flights cancelled, mostly from New York’s three main airports, stranding tens of thousands trying to return home after Christmas holiday.

Snow cancels 4,000 flights, shuts NYC airports (USA Today):

A strong Christmas-weekend blizzard paralyzed travel along much of the East Coast on Monday, halting flights at the three New York City airports for much of the day.

For those stranded, airport and airline officials warned it could take “days” before they could be accommodated on future flights

Snow Blankets U.S. East Coast

A bicycle is buried in snow in the early morning hours in Manhattan’s East Village. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) — New York City’s major airports remained closed after the heaviest December snowfall in six decades left travelers in the Northeast struggling amid waist- high drifts and blinding winds.

Central Park had 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow by 8 a.m., the most for the month since 1948, the National Weather Service said. Skies cleared by daybreak while the agency issued blizzard warnings for Boston and into Maine.

The storm forced airlines to cancel more than 6,000 flights since yesterday. John F. Kennedy International and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty will reopen at 6 p.m., and LaGuardia Airport’s resumption time is undetermined, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.

“It is horrendous in the New York City area,” Tom Kines, a meteorologist at State College, Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather Inc., said by telephone. “This is about as bad as it gets. There may have been storms that equaled this, but it doesn’t get much worse than this. To get this much snow with the amount of wind that is accompanying it, that is devastating.”

The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market said they would keep normal hours today. The New York Mercantile Exchange delayed the opening of floor trading until 11 a.m., while electronic trading was unaffected.

Getting Around

“They pay me good money to be here,” said Vinny Stavola, an Oppenheimer & Co. convertible trader, who trekked from Staten Island to get to work in midtown Manhattan by 6:30 a.m. “It doesn’t take a heroic effort to get to work, just a little dedication.”

The storm, with winds gusting to 30 mph (48 kph), began in New York at midday yesterday. The 20 inches measured in Central Park was the most since late February, when a storm dropped 20.9 inches over a two-day period, Pete Wichrowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, New York, said in a telephone interview.

The day after Christmas is one of the five busiest shopping days of the year, and it may take retailers two weeks to capture sales lost yesterday, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group Inc., a research firm based in Port Washington, New York.

Amtrak Operations

Amtrak resumed operations between New York and Boston today after canceling services late yesterday. Metro-North commuter trains resumed their runs at midday after being halted by wind- blown snow, as the Long Island Rail Road remained closed, according to a statement on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website.

NJ Transit, which transports about 170,000 commuters to and from New York City daily, suspended bus service as of 8:30 p.m. yesterday, according to a statement. Rail service will run a modified holiday schedule on all routes today except the Atlantic City line, which will operate on a weekday schedule, and trains for the morning commute were experiencing 15 minute delays, the agency said.

Four hundred subway passengers were aboard an A train that was stuck in Queens for more than six hours, until it could be pushed to a station by another train. The Coney Island area was without subway service.

New Jersey Shutdowns

As much as 29 inches of snow was reported in Bergen County, New Jersey, while Union County had as much as 26, the Weather Service said. Winds gusted to almost 70 mph in some areas. Interstate 280 westbound, one of the main approaches to downtown Newark, was almost deserted at 8 a.m. and acting Governor Stephen Sweeney ordered state offices closed.

New York City will have 365 salt spreaders and 1,700 snowplows on the streets, and sanitation department employees will work 12-hour shifts, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday at a press conference. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Consolidated Edison Inc. reported there were 6,167 customers in Queens, New York, and 1,811 in Westchester County without power.

Boston and its suburbs may receive as much as 18 inches from the storm before it ends tomorrow, said Alan Dunham, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts. Part of central Massachusetts may receive as much as 22 inches.

National Grid Plc, which provides electricity in New York and Massachusetts, was reporting power outages at 14 sites throughout New York and Massachusetts affecting about 29,727 homes and businesses. The largest was in Norfolk, Massachusetts, where 10,902 customers were without power.

Flights Grounded

U.S. carriers have canceled at least 3,229 flights so far today, after cutting more than 3,334 yesterday, as they wait for airports to reopen in the Northeast, spokesmen said. Airlines in some cases grounded flights ahead of the storm to keep planes from getting stuck at closed facilities.

Delta Air Lines Inc. cut 875 flights systemwide today, said Trebor Banstetter, an airline spokesman.

“As the weather clears, we are aiming to resume normal operations late Monday and into Tuesday across the East Coast,” Banstetter said in an e-mail.

Continental Airlines and its regional partner carriers have canceled 800 flights for today, while United grounded 175, said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings Inc. The carrier expects to resume flights out of New York-area airports and Boston in the afternoon, he said.

More Cancellations

Southwest Airlines Co. cut 188 flights today, primarily in Norfolk and Boston, said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for the Dallas-based carrier. It expects to resume flights in some northeastern U.S. airports about mid-day, he said.

US Airways Group Inc. canceled 550 flights today, mostly into and out of New York, Philadelphia and Boston, said Jim Olson, a spokesman. Flights into Boston are set to resume after 11 a.m. today, he said.

American Airlines and its commuter carrier, American Eagle, canceled 411 flights today, said Ed Martelle, a spokesman. The two airlines cut 427 flights yesterday.

JetBlue Airways Corp. scrubbed more than 300 flights today after cutting 270 yesterday, Mateo Lleras, a spokesman for the New York-based carrier, said in an e-mail.

“Today we’re also dealing with closed runways, roads that are barely passable and trains and buses that are not running,” JetBlue told customers today in a company blog. “In many cases, conditions are not safe for our crewmembers or our customers to get to the airports, where it’s even possible.”

Southern Snowfall

The storm also brought snow as far south as parts of Jacksonville, Florida, AccuWeather said on its website.

The storm system began in the South over the Christmas holiday. Four inches of snow fell in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while 8 inches was reported in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Environment Canada issued a blizzard warning yesterday for northeastern New Brunswick and warned of heavy snow or rain in the rest of the Maritime provinces today. Sixteen inches of snow may fall in New Brunswick, and rain may accompany the snow in Nova Scotia.

Winds may gust to 87 mph (140 kph) in eastern Nova Scotia and 80 mph in western Newfoundland, the agency said.

Source: Bloomberg

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