Service has resumed at airports in the north-eastern US after blizzards forced the cancellation of thousands of flights, bringing misery to Christmas travellers just as conditions in Europe were beginning to thaw.
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 on Tuesday 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 jet was left for nearly eight hours on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport after landing on a flight from London on Tuesday. 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 on Tuesday.
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).
City's response criticised
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.