New York hard hit as winter storm slams northeast

NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – A blizzard pummeled the  northeastern United States today, burying cities in  knee-deep snow, leaving thousands camped at airports and  snarling traffic 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 swept up the Atlantic Coast on Sunday night  and continued up to the Monday morning commute, unleashing  powerful winds and bringing cities to a halt.
At least a dozen traffic fatalities in several affected  states were attributed to the treacherous road conditions.  Winds gusted up to 59 mph (95 kph).
Financial markets operated normally although trading volumes  were thinned by the storm, which also kept shoppers away from  the malls on the day after Christmas, one of the busiest  shopping days of the year.
As the storm moved into Canada, the sun broke through on  the U.S. East Coast, but massive piles of snow could take days  to melt. Temperatures were not expected to climb above freezing  for a sustained period until later in the week.
Authorities shut down New York’s three major airports on  Sunday night, canceling thousands of flights and stranding  passengers in terminals that were cut off for hours from trains  and taxis, with food and information in short supply.
The New York airports were due to reopen at 6 p.m. (2300  GMT) — two hours later than initially planned.
“Here there are maybe 200 folding cots for 1,000 people,”  traveler Lance Jay Brown, 67, said from John F. Kennedy  Airport’s Terminal 8. “I paid $50 for three hot chocolates, a  couple of candy bars and two sandwiches, and I was happy to get  a sandwich. There are dozens of people twisted out of shape  with frustration.”
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.”
Many offices closed for business, including the United  Nations, which canceled all events at its New York  headquarters.
After 17 hours of snowfall dropped 20 inches (50 cm) on New  York’s Central Park, the city was covered. Snow drifts piled 3  to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm) in some areas and giant mounds  accumulated on the sidewalks where snow plows cleared the  streets.
Similar snowfalls were reported throughout the Atlantic  Coast, and totals reached as high as 29 inches (74 cm) in New  Jersey.
“I’m just stunned by the power of nature,” said Cheri  Geckler, a neuropsychologist who was feeding animals at a  stable in Lincoln, Massachusetts. “I worry about the impact on  the human infrastructure and the livestock that we all depend  on.”
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.
New York City subway traffic was sporadic and the commuter  rails connecting the city to the suburbs were suspended.
One New York subway train was stuck on a frozen track for  seven hours before the passengers were rescued. Transit  authorities said they had to dig a towing locomotive out of the  snow before it could the reach the stranded train in a remote  area of the network.
Amtrak passenger rail service between New York and Boston  was suspended on Sunday night but resumed with a limited  schedule on Monday morning.
The New England states were also buried in snow. In Boston,  only essential city employees were asked to report to work.
“I can’t even find the sidewalk,” said Marilyn Westgate,  44, of Belmont, Massachusetts, as she shoveled snow on her  corner lot. “I don’t even think about the time. I just do it.”
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.”

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