NEW YORK – A winter storm made travel torturous in the Northeast on Sunday, dropping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.
More than a foot of snow was expected in some areas, including New York and Boston, where an aquarium had to protect – of all things – penguin ice sculptures from the elements. A dumping of up to 20 inches had been forecast for Philadelphia, where the Eagles-Vikings NFL game was postponed because of the storm, but by early evening meteorologists said the city would end up getting no more than a foot. Parts of New Jersey, however, got walloped.
More than 1,400 flights had been canceled out of the New York City area’s three major airports alone, and more cancellations were expected today.
For many people, however, the storm’s timing was perfect: the day after Christmas, a Sunday, no school for at least a week.
“Love snowy days when I don’t have to go anywhere. Staying in – just me and my cozy new socks,” author Neesha Meminger wrote on Twitter from her home in the Bronx.
She told the AP she’s able to savor the moment because her children, ages 6 and 9, are on holiday break: “If this was during the school week, I would be cursing.”
Colleen and Graham James, of Montclair, N.J., represented the other side of the coin. They were at Newark Airport with their two young children and their dachshund, trying to reach family in Iowa, but their connecting flight to Chicago was delayed more than 2 1/2 hours.
“We left the day after Christmas to avoid the Christmas craze. I guess that didn’t work out so well,” Colleen James said.
Airlines canceled flights throughout the Northeast and at airports in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and the Carolinas. They expected more cancellations today but were trying to rebook passengers and hoped to resume normal operations Tuesday.
Amtrak, meanwhile, canceled train service from New York to Maine on Sunday evening after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. New York’s Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s largest commuter rail system, also suspended service. And bus companies canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers.
Kate Lindquist, on her way home from New Hampshire to New York City, was greeted with a handwritten sign at a Boston bus station: “Sorry, we are closed today.”
“To have this happen on a Sunday during a holiday weekend is incredibly frustrating,” she told the AP in an e-mail.
More than 2,400 sanitation workers were working in 12-hour shifts to clear New York City’s 6,000 miles of streets.
The monster storm is the result of a low-pressure system off the North Carolina coast and strengthened as it moved northeast, according to the National Weather Service.
Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, which was hit with a white Christmas for the record books.
Columbia, S.C., had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch of snow – the first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since the 1880s. About a foot of snow fell in Norfolk, Va., the most seen there since a February 1989 storm dumped nearly 15 inches.
Utility companies in the Carolinas said more than 100,000 people lost power because of the storm.