A winter storm that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Midwest homes and businesses moved into the East on Monday with a dicey mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain that slowed travelers and tied up airlines once again.
Highway crews scrambled to clear the roads, and hundreds of flights were canceled - including at least 68 for JetBlue, whose flight schedule and reputation were severely battered by a storm two weeks ago.
At least one planeload of JetBlue passengers waited on the tarmac for nearly three hours at New York's Kennedy Airport early Monday before the plane, unable to take off because of the weather, returned to the gate.
"It was so bad," said Segun Akande, a 22-year-old Duke University student. "We were waiting on the plane for so long. You would think they would tell us to go back to the terminal after an hour or two."
"I never witnessed this bad of service in my entire life," added fellow student Doug Rosenberg.
JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said the students' departure had already been delayed to 11:47 p.m., and that the plane went out but was brought back to the gate at 2:35 a.m. because of the weather. She said all 100 passengers would receive $100 vouchers; after the previous storm's problems, the company introduced a customers' bill of rights promising to compensate for delays and cancellations.
By dawn Monday, repair crews were responding to outages affecting 2,200 power customers in Maryland, northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
With memories still fresh of the ice that had stopped flights across the region and stranded dozens of drivers on one Pennsylvania highway, officials across much of the region were relieved Monday to see snow instead.
"The salt's going to work just fine," said David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "It's not supposed to get really cold - not like that last storm we had, where everything turned to a big hunk of ice."
The Midwest appeared to have taken the brunt of the latest storm, receiving up to 2 feet of snow, with more expected in some areas early Monday. Nine traffic deaths were blamed on the storm: eight in Wisconsin and one in Kansas.
Heavy ice brought down miles of power lines and utility poles, mostly in Iowa, where nearly 250,000 customers were without electricity Sunday night. Close to 80,000 were without power in Illinois.
"It could be at least three days if not more than one week before we get all the customers back on," Alliant Energy spokesman Ryan Stensland said of conditions in Iowa. "We've got close to 2,500 poles down - over 500 miles of line down."
The storm's snow, sleet and freezing rain led airlines to cancel hundreds of flights Sunday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and dozens more at Midway Airport, said Wendy Abrams, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. That was on top of cancellations Saturday. Abrams estimated that about 1,000 stranded passengers spent the night at O'Hare.
JetBlue canceled canceled flights into and out of Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area over the weekend, plus 68 on Monday at New York's Kennedy Airport.
During the Valentine's Day storm, JetBlue was heavily criticized after passengers were stranded on planes at Kennedy Airport for up to 10 1/2 hours because of the ice and snow. That storm led to more than 1,000 cancellations, and affected more than 100,000 passengers.
The latest cancellations were to make sure crews and planes were in the right places so the company can quickly resume operations after the storm, spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said Sunday.
Slippery conditions persisted on roads throughout Wisconsin on Sunday, leading to several fatal accidents. The Wisconsin State Patrol said blowing and drifting snow made portions of Interstate 43 in Walworth and Waukesha counties impassable for several hours Sunday morning.
The National Weather Service in Michigan warned of widespread snow, strong wind and near blizzard conditions in parts of the state, with up to a foot of snow.
In Pennsylvania, where hundreds of motorists had been stranded on an icy stretch of Interstate 78 during the storm two weeks ago, the roads early Monday were salted and plowed and were being inspected every two hours, PennDOT spokesman Ron Young said.
New York City sanitation workers were preparing for up to 7 inches of snow in their city Sunday and Monday. Some 2,000 plows and the sanitation department's 365 salt spreaders were ready to clear streets and roads citywide, authorities said.
Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Baltimore and Brett Zongker in Washington contributed to this report.
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