Massive Blizzard Cripples Northeastern US
New York hard hit as winter storm slams northeast
Reuters, Dec 27, 2010
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A blizzard pummeled the northeastern United States on Monday, dumping up to 29 inches of snow, disrupting air and rail travel and challenging motorists with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend.
New York City and surrounding areas were the hardest hit by the storm, which blew up the Atlantic Coast on Sunday night and continued up to the Monday morning commute, unleashing powerful winds and grounding cities to a halt.
New York's three major airports, shut on Sunday night after at least 2,000 flights were canceled, were due to reopen at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Many offices just closed for business, including the United Nations, which canceled all events at its headquarters.
Trade on the New York Stock Exchange opened promptly at 9:30 a.m. (1430 GMT) and the U.S. Treasury Department said auctions of three- and six-month bills and of two-year notes would proceed as scheduled.
After 17 hours of snowfall dropped 20 inches on New York's Central Park, the city was covered in snow -- knee deep in many areas with giant piles on the sidewalks where snow plows cleared the streets. Some motorists who were able to dig their cars out from the snow were left spinning their wheels on unplowed streets.
"I've never seen anything like this," said John Harris of New Rochelle, New York, after getting out of a taxi in the city. "Normally it takes me about 20 to 30 minutes to drive to work but I was stuck in traffic for almost two hours before I decided to just get off at the nearest exit and get on a train. Then I find out there's no Metro-North (commuter) trains moving so I end up shelling out around $40 to take a cab to work."
Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was thinned by the storm, which also kept shoppers away from the malls on the day after Christmas, the final act of the holiday shopping season.
"If desks were down 30 percent, 40 percent anyway (between Christmas and the New Year), they are probably down even more today," said David Ader, head of government bond strategy at CRT Capital in Stamford, Connecticut. "Today, what do we have? We have nothing."
Snow drifts dropped 3 to 5 feet on north-facing structures thanks to winds of up to 49 mph, NY1 television said.
Skies started clearing just before the morning commute, providing ideal play conditions and an extra treat for children who either had class canceled or were on holiday from school.
But there was no fun for thousands of people stranded in the airports. At Philadelphia International Airport, some 1,200 stuck passengers were given pillows, blankets, water, juice and diapers.
Subway Service Disrupted
New York City subway traffic was sporadic and the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rails connecting the city to the suburbs were suspended.
One New York subway train was stuck on a frozen track for several hours before the passengers were rescued. Amtrak passenger rail service between New York and Boston was suspended on Sunday night but resumed with a limited schedule on Monday morning.
"It's one thing if you shut down a few trains for service but how on earth are you going to shut down all the trains during rush hour? I can't believe this, man, these people (in the transit authority) act like none of us have jobs to go to," said Chris Alvarez, one of about 100 people huddled in a Metro-North station in Harlem.
Major airlines including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Continental Airlines and United Airlines canceled large numbers of flights.
One caller seeking to reschedule a flight on U.S. Airways was told by an automated phone message: "Your wait time is now 170 minutes."
In a sign of the severity of the storm, an NFL football game scheduled on Sunday night in Philadelphia was postponed, forcing the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings to reschedule the contest for Tuesday.
It was controversial considering the sport loves to glorify games in snow.
"It's an absolute joke," Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a big Eagles fan, told Fox News. "This is what football is all about. We're becoming a nation of wussies."