Monday, December 27, 2010

An aerial view of LaGuardia Airport New York Airports Open After Heaviest Snows in Six Decades

By Aaron Clark - Dec 27, 2010 6:19 PM MT

The storm has forced airlines to cancel more than 6,000 flights since yesterday, when airports began to close.
New York City’s major airports resumed operations after the heaviest December snowfall in six decades left travelers in the Northeast struggling amid waist- high drifts and blizzard winds.

The city’s Central Park had 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow by 8 a.m., the most for the month since 1948, the National Weather Service said. Skies cleared over New York by daybreak as the agency issued blizzard warnings for Boston and into Maine.

The storm forced airlines to cancel more than 6,000 flights since yesterday, when airports began to close. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty airports opened tonight for outgoing traffic.

“There may have been storms that equaled this, but it doesn’t get much worse than this,” Tom Kines, a meteorologist at State College, Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather Inc., said by telephone. “To get this much snow with the amount of wind that is accompanying it, that is devastating.”

New York, which faces a $2.5 billion deficit in the $65 billion budget projected for next year, will be more affected by lost economic activity than clean-up costs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

Getting Around

The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market kept normal hours today. The New York Mercantile Exchange delayed the opening of floor trading until 11 a.m.
“They pay me good money to be here,” said Vinny Stavola, an Oppenheimer & Co. convertible trader, who trekked from Staten Island to get to work in midtown Manhattan by 6:30 a.m. “It doesn’t take a heroic effort to get to work, just a little dedication.”

The storm, with winds gusting to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour), reached New York at midday yesterday. The day after Christmas is one of the five busiest shopping days of the year, and it may take retailers two weeks to recover from lost sales, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group Inc., a research firm based in Port Washington, New York.

Economic Impact

The snowfall was the fifth-largest on record for the city, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said at the mayor’s news conference.

“In the grand scheme of things, given the size of our budget and the size of our deficit, this is very small,” Bloomberg said. “It’s the lack of commerce that takes place. Yesterday and today were big shopping days, and that didn’t happen, so your sales tax revenues will be lower, and those are the things that really hurt.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Amtrak resumed operations between New York and Boston today after canceling services late yesterday. Metro-North commuter trains resumed limited runs at midday after being halted by wind-blown snow, while the Long Island Rail Road was closed, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website.

Commuter Trains

NJ Transit, which carries about 170,000 commuters to and from New York City daily, suspended bus service as of 8:30 p.m. yesterday until tomorrow, according to a statement. Service between Newark and New York was shut by signal problems and other trains will run on modified schedules, the agency said.

Four hundred subway passengers were aboard an A train that was stuck in Queens for more than six hours, until it could be pushed to a station by another train. The Coney Island area was without subway service.

As much as 29 inches of snow was reported in Bergen County, New Jersey, while Union County had as much as 26, the Weather Service said. Winds gusted to almost 70 mph in some areas. Interstate 280 westbound, one of the main approaches to downtown Newark, was almost deserted at 8 a.m. and acting Governor Stephen Sweeney ordered state offices closed.

Home Depot Inc., the world’s largest home improvement retailer, is shipping additional snow shovels, snow blowers and ice melt to stores from North Carolina to Maine, said Ron DeFeo, a company spokesman.

NYC Deploys

New York City will have 365 salt spreaders and 1,700 snowplows on the streets, and sanitation department employees will work 12-hour shifts, Bloomberg said yesterday.

Boston and its suburbs may receive as much as 18 inches from the storm, said Alan Dunham, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts. Part of central Massachusetts may receive as much as 22 inches.

U.S. carriers canceled at least 3,389 flights today, after cutting more than 3,334 yesterday, as they waited for airports to open in the Northeast, spokesmen said. Airlines in some cases grounded flights ahead of the storm to keep planes from getting stuck at closed facilities.

Delta Air Lines Inc. cut 1,000 flights systemwide, said Trebor Banstetter, an airline spokesman.

“As the weather clears, we are aiming to resume normal operations late Monday and into Tuesday across the East Coast,” Banstetter said in an e-mail.

Continental Airlines and its regional partner carriers have canceled 800 flights for today, while United grounded 175, said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings Inc. The carrier expects to resume flights out of New York-area airports and Boston in the afternoon, he said.

More Cancellations

Southwest Airlines Co. cut 188 flights today, primarily in Norfolk and Boston, said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for the Dallas-based carrier. It expects to resume flights in some northeastern U.S. airports about mid-day, he said.

US Airways Group Inc. canceled 550 flights today, mostly into and out of New York, Philadelphia and Boston, said Jim Olson, a spokesman. Flights into Boston are set to resume after 11 a.m. today, he said.

American Airlines and its commuter carrier, American Eagle, canceled 446 flights today, said Ed Martelle, a spokesman. The two airlines cut 427 flights yesterday and American cut 40 scheduled for tomorrow.

JetBlue Airways Corp. scrubbed more than 300 flights today after cutting 270 yesterday, Mateo Lleras, a spokesman for the New York-based carrier, said in an e-mail.

Unsafe for Crews

“Today we’re also dealing with closed runways, roads that are barely passable and trains and buses that are not running,” JetBlue told customers today in a company blog. “In many cases, conditions are not safe for our crewmembers or our customers to get to the airports, where it’s even possible.”

The storm also brought snow as far south as parts of Jacksonville, Florida, AccuWeather said on its website.
The storm system began in the South over the Christmas holiday. Four inches of snow fell in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while 8 inches was reported in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Environment Canada issued a blizzard warning yesterday for northeastern New Brunswick and warned of heavy snow or rain in the rest of the Maritime provinces today. Sixteen inches of snow may fall in New Brunswick, and rain may accompany the snow in Nova Scotia.

Winds may gust to 87 mph (140 kph) in eastern Nova Scotia and 80 mph in western Newfoundland, the agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Clark in New York at

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