Northeastern US digs out after storm snarls travel

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – New Yorkers dug out of the  sixth biggest snowstorm on record to hit their city and  thousands of stranded travelers hoped to finally board  long-delayed flights today after a blizzard buried the  Northeastern United States the day after Christmas.
The city’s normally bustling streets were largely empty,  many still unplowed, and crippled commuter rail service  struggled to resume regular operations after the storm dumped  20 inches (50 cm) over a 17-hour period on Sunday and Monday.
“At first it was somewhat exciting and pretty cool to see  this much snow, being from Texas, but by the second day it  became pretty frustrating. The sidewalks were a mess,” said  tourist Will Robinson, 24.
Financial markets were operating normally but Monday’s  trading volume of 2 billion shares on the New York Stock  Exchange marked the lightest day of the year.
Boston, Philadelphia and other cities on the Atlantic Coast  also got pummeled with similar snowfall and crept back to life  after an extended holiday hiatus when garbage went uncollected,  offices stayed shut and shoppers stayed home on what normally  is one of the busiest retail days of the year.
With 4,500 flights canceled or delayed on Sunday and Monday  in New York’s three major airports alone, tens of thousands of  passengers camped out in terminals. Airlines could need another  day or two to work through the backlog, officials said.
A British Airways <BAY.L> jet was left for nearly eight  hours on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport  after landing on a flight from London today. The airline  blamed gate congestion and a lack of immigration and customs  personnel.
“After 2 hrs in security, only 4 staff with 500+  passengers, luggage is still on the plane! But its good to be  back!” passenger Matthew Bishop, the New York bureau chief for  The Economist, said on Twitter.
In Philadelphia, 305 stranded passengers spent Monday night  at the airport, down from 1,215 on Sunday night, an airport  spokeswoman said. Commuter rail was seeing delays of up to 30  minutes while bus and trolley services were on or close to  schedule, a transit authority spokeswoman said.
In Boston, tens of thousands of customers were left without  power after 18.2 inches (46 cm) of snow fell, 10th most since  the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1892.  The city lifted its snow emergency on Monday evening and public  transit operated with only minor hitches today.
A chairlift derailed at the Sugarloaf Mountain ski resort  in Maine on Tuesday, injuring about eight people, the resort  said in a statement. The resort, on the second highest mountain  in Maine, was experiencing wind gusts of up to 39 miles (63 km)  per hour and temperatures around 13 degrees Fahrenheit (minus  11 Celsius).
The 20.0 inches (50.8 cm) of snow that fell on Central Park  marked the sixth largest New York City snowfall since records  have been kept, a National Weather Service spokeswoman said. Up  to 32 inches (81 cm) fell in New Jersey. Winds reached 65 mph  (105 kph).
The New York record of 26.4 inches (67.1 cm) was set on  Feb. 11-12, 2006.
True to character, New Yorkers complained about storm  relief while the city’s fleet of 2,000 snow-plowing sanitation  trucks struggled to clear the city’s 6,000 miles (9,600 km) of  streets.
After ambulances and city buses got stuck in the snow, and  many neighborhoods in the boroughs outside Manhattan had yet to  see plows, accusations rained in that City Hall failed to  prepare for a blizzard that was forecast days in advance.
“I don’t think they were prepared,” April Cuthbert, a  materials manager at Brooklyn Hospital, said from the Fort  Greene neighborhood, where stretches of sidewalk remained  unshoveled, forcing people to walk in the street. “Manhattan,  that’s a money place. They make money in Manhattan,” she added,  explaining why her neighborhood was still snowed under.
On Monday, a New York subway train got stuck on a frozen  rail with passengers trapped inside for seven hours.
Times Square was mostly cleared in preparation for Friday  night’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
Traffic trickled over a thin layer of slush, after the  so-called crossroads of the world had almost no cars on Monday  when snow was piled high.

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