A powerful East Coast blizzard marooned thousands of would-be air, rail and road travelers today, shutting down major airports and rail lines for a second day, stranding buses on buried highways, and forcing New York City subway riders to spend a cold night in unheated trains.
A winter weather advisory remains in effect for the Tri-State Area until midnight.
Matt Scalora, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the blizzard would be remembered for gusting winds greater than 60 mph. “It doesn’t happen too often,” he said.
The blizzard left airplanes snowed in on the tarmac and unable to leave their gates. New York City-area airports shut down late Sunday evening and stayed closed for much of Monday.
“People are exhausted. … They want to get home,” said Eric Schorr, 22, who was trying to get from New York City to Tel Aviv on Sunday night but ended up spending about nine hours stuck on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport, finally ending back in the airport around 3 a.m. His flight was rescheduled for 7 p.m.
Hundreds of cold, hungry and tired air passengers spent the night at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports. Officials said they were provided blankets and cots, but some travelers were not allowed to retrieve their checked luggage, leaving them with no extra clothing or toiletries.
In New York City, hundreds of travelers dozed Monday in Long Island Rail Road train cars frozen at the platform. Others lay like refugees at the entrance to the train link to Kennedy Airport and stood helpless at the ticket office, waiting in vain for good news to flash on the schedule screens. Hours went by without a single train leaving with passengers.
Not even New York City’s subway system – usually a reliable workhorse during a snow storm – could withstand the blizzard. Some subway passengers were stranded for hours on trains that broke down overnight in Queens and finally pulled into a station by midday Monday.
Christopher Mullen, stranded aboard one train since 1 a.m., said conditions were frustrating.
“No food, no water. Cold. That’s the main thing that’s bothering everyone,” Christopher Mullen told local cable news channel NY1.
Long Island Rail Road service is still suspended. There is no word on when Amtrak will resume full train service across New England, but it is making some progress. Amtrak had to cancel service between Boston and New York City, and from Boston to Portland, Me., because of the major snowstorm socking in the region. Service between New York and Washington was not affected by the storm.
Service changes were also in effect on city subway lines. “Let us clean up the rest of the system, get the trains moving, if you do not have to use mass transit today, if you don’t have to go anywhere – don’t,” NYC Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said.
Buses were knocked out as well, cabs were little more than a myth and those who tried walking out of the station were assailed with a hard, frigid wind that made snowflakes sting like needles.
“They tried, but they can’t do much with this snow. It’s just not stopping,” said Sharray Jones, 20, headed home to Long Island after visiting friends.
Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers on thousands of canceled flights – more than 1,400 out of New York City’s three major airports alone. John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports remain closed Monday, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport. Kennedy is expected to reopen at 4 p.m. Monday, LaGuardia at 2 p.m. and Newark Airport at noon.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman says passengers are being provided blankets and cots. He says there are hundreds of passengers at Kennedy Airport and between 100 to 200 at LaGuardia and Newark.
Delta Air Lines Inc., which has canceled 850 flights and expected cancellations Monday in New York and Boston, said it hoped to be back to normal by Tuesday morning, while United Airlines said it could add more flights Monday to accommodate stranded passengers.