Thousands Stranded By 2-Foot Blizzard in Northeast

The storm closed all three of the New York metropolitan area's airports Sunday and stymied most other means of transportation.


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 flight 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.

Wacker and other deplaning 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.

The storm walloped the Northeast on Sunday, stymieing most means of transportation. Flights were grounded. 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.

Cold, hungry and tired passengers spent the night 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.

Many side streets in New York City remained unplowed well into the day, 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.

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