Thousands stranded by 2-foot blizzard in Northeast

Thousands stranded by 2-foot
blizzard in Northeast

AP/Mel Evans

People
make their way as heavy winds blow snow across The Boardwalk in Atlantic City,
N.J. More photos »

AP

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An air passenger sleeps on a luggage conveyor belt at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) AP – An air passenger sleeps on a
luggage conveyor belt at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New
York, …

By DEEPTI HAJELA and SAMANTHA HENRY,
Associated Press Deepti Hajela And Samantha Henry,
Associated Press
17 mins ago

NEW YORK – Thousands of travelers trying to get home after the holiday
weekend sat bored and bleary-eyed in airports and shivered aboard stuck buses
and subway trains Monday, stranded by a blizzard that slammed the Northeast with
more than 2 feet of snow.
“People are exhausted. They want to get home,” sighed Eric Schorr, marooned
at New York’s Kennedy Airport since Sunday afternoon by the storm, which
worked its way up the coast from the Carolinas to Maine with winds up to 80 mph
that whirled the snow into deep drifts across streets, railroad tracks and
runways.
Snowfall totals included a foot in Tidewater, Va., and Philadelphia, 29
inches in parts of northern New Jersey, 2 feet north of New York City, and more
than 18 inches in Boston.
The storm closed all three of the New York metropolitan area’s airports
Sunday and stymied most other means of transportation. Buses sputtered to a halt
in snow drifts. Trains stopped in their tracks. Taxi drivers abandoned their
cabs in the middle of New York’s snow-clogged streets. Even the New York City
subway system — usually dependable during a snowstorm — broke down in spots,
trapping riders for hours.
By Monday evening, planes had begun landing at Kennedy and LaGuardia
airports. Flights were expected to begin arriving at the airport in Newark,
N.J., later in the night.
A Royal Jordanian flight touched down shortly before 7 p.m. at Kennedy, the
first to arrive since the blizzard hit, said Steve Coleman, of the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, which operates the airports.
Just before an Air Canada flight from Toronto touched down at LaGuardia about
40 minutes later, the captain came over the loudspeaker and informed passengers
that it was the first to land at the airport since the blizzard hit.
“Everyone was clapping toward the end,”
said Patrick Wacker, 37, who had been stranded in Toronto for a day while trying
to get back to New York after visiting his parents in Frankfurt, Germany.

Click
image to see photos of the East Coast snow storm


AP/The Virginian-Pilot, L.
Todd Spencer

Wacker and other passengers said there was some turbulence on landing and the
plane had to be towed to the gate because it couldn’t get through the snow on
the runway.
Countless cold, hungry and tired passengers were hunkered down in airports,
train stations and bus depots. Some were given cots and blankets. Others used
their luggage as pillows, curled into chairs, or made beds by spreading towels
on the floor or overturning the plastic bins used for sending items through
airport security.
Some airline passengers could be stuck for days. Many planes
are booked solid because of the busy holiday season, and airlines are operating
fewer flights because of the economic downturn.
As bad as the storm was, it could have been worse if it had been an ordinary
work day. Children are home from school all week on Christmas vacation, and lots
of people had taken off from work.
Many youngsters went out and frolicked in the snow, some of them using the
sleds they got for Christmas.
The storm was New York City’s sixth worst since 1869, when records began,
said Adrienne Leptich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
A Feb. 11-12, 2006, storm dropped 26.9 inches of snow on Central Park,
breaking the previous record, set in 1947, by half an inch.
Many side streets in the city remained unplowed well into the day Monday, and
pedestrians stumbled over drifts and trudged through knee-deep snow in some
places. Numerous people simply gave up trying to use the sidewalks, instead
walking down the middle of partially plowed streets. Some New Yorkers complained
that snowplow crews were neglecting neighborhoods in the outer boroughs in favor
of Manhattan.
A testy Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the city’s cleanup effort, saying
the furious pace of the snowfall — 2 to 3 inches per hour — required crews to
plow streets repeatedly to keep them open. And abandoned cars slowed the process
further because plows could not get through, he said.
“It’s being handled by the best professionals in the business,” Bloomberg
said, urging people not to get upset. “It’s a snowstorm, and it really is
inconvenient for a lot of people.”

At the Manchester Boston Regional Airport outside Manchester, N.H.,
25-year-old Alicia Kinney slept overnight on benches in the baggage claim area before moving to the food court for a soda in
the morning.

“I’m trying to stay positive,” she said.

The blizzard had a ripple effect on air travel, stranding thousands of people
at airports around the country.

“I know the Northeast was hit by snow. I get it. But still, this is Monday
and I still haven’t gotten a flight yet,” said Sam Rogers, who had planned to
fly back to New York on Sunday after visiting his brother in Charlotte, N.C.,
for the holiday. He was supposed to be back Monday at the mortgage company where
he works, but no one was answering the phone at his office. “I guess they took a
snow day, too.”

In New York, many passengers tired of waiting around couldn’t have left even
if they wanted to. Taxis were hard to find, and many airport shuttles and trains
were also a lost cause.

“There’s literally no way to leave,” said Jason Cochran of New York City,
stuck at Kennedy.

Yoann Uzan of France, on a first-ever trip to New York City with his
girlfriend, said their airline had promised to put passengers up at hotels
overnight. “But we waited for the shuttle buses to take us there, and then the buses
couldn’t get through because of the weather, so we were stuck here,” he said.

Passengers stuck at New York City’s main bus terminal — where all service was
canceled — tried to get some shuteye as they awaited word on when buses might
start rolling again.

“It’s really, really cold here,” said 12-year-old Terry Huang. “The luggage
was really hard to sleep on. It was hard and lumpy.”

Two passenger buses headed back to New York City from the Atlantic City,
N.J., casinos became stuck on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. State troopers,
worried about diabetics aboard, brought water and food as emergency workers
worked to free the vehicles.

In Virginia, the National Guard had to rescue three people trapped in a car
for more than four hours in the Eastern Shore area.

Not even professional hockey players could beat the frozen conditions. The
Toronto Maple Leafs, after defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-1 in Newark, N.J.,
got stuck in traffic for four hours on their way to the team hotel. It was
supposed to be a 20-minute ride. Center Tyler Bozak tweeted in one
middle-of-the-night dispatch: “Roads closed in new jersey stuck on the bussss.
Brutaallll!!”

Christopher Mullen was among the New York City subway riders stranded for
several hours aboard a cold train Monday. “I just huddled with my girlfriend. We
just tried to stay close,” he said.

The train was stopped by snow drifts on the tracks and ice on the electrified
third rail. It took hours to rescue the passengers because crews first tried to
push the train, and when that didn’t work, a snow-covered diesel locomotive had
to be dug out of a railyard and brought in to move it.

Getting around cities in the Northeast was an adventure. In one Brooklyn
neighborhood, cars drove the wrong way up a one-way street because it was the
only plowed thoroughfare in the area. In Philadelphia, pedestrians dodged chunks
of ice blown off skyscrapers.

New York taxi driver Shafqat Hayat spent the night in his cab on 33rd Street
in Manhattan, unable to move his vehicle down the unplowed road. “I’ve seen a
lot of snow before, but on the roads, I’ve never seen so many cars stuck in 22
years,” he said.

___

Hajela reported from Fort Lee, N.J. Contributing to this report were
Associated Press writers Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J.; Glen Johnson in
Haverhill, Mass.,; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Meghan Barr, Leon
Drouin-Keith, Sara Kugler Frazier, Samantha Gross, Karen Matthews, Adam Pemble,
Cristian Salazar, and David Porter in New York; Eric Tucker in Providence, R.I.;
Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J.; Chris
Hawley in Newark, N.J.; George Walsh in Albany, N.Y.; Bruce Shipkowski in
Trenton, N.J., and Mitch Weiss in Charlotte, N.C.

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