Washington, Dec 27: The first blizzard of winter howled into New York and the northeastern US, shutting down train service, forcing flight cancellations and tying up traffic on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Forecasters expected the snow, which began coming down Sunday, to accumulate to up to 50 centimetres in some places by 5 p.m. Monday (2200 GMT). Winds could also exceed 65 km per hour.
Millions of people were trying to make their way home after the long Christmas holiday weekend. But more than 1,400 flights have been cancelled at New York area airports alone, CNN reported.
Flights were halted at the three airports as of Sunday evening, said Sara Joren, spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey transportation authority, but John F. Kennedy International Airport was scheduled to reopen about 5 a.m. Monday.
Trains offered little hope as an alternative. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said service was cancelled for the rest of Sunday on the New York-Boston corridor and decisions would be made Monday morning about resuming service.
“When the entire corridor is affected, there aren’t any options to give” passengers, Cole told CNN.
Bus services were also put on hold, and the Automobile Association of America urged people to stay off the roads. But if they attempt to drive, they should pack water, blankets, boots and charged cell phones, it said.
“This storm is hitting at an incredibly frustrating time for holiday travelers,” association spokesman Jim Lardear said.
The same weather system had earlier dumped a week of rain and flooding on California from mid-December, then moved through the Midwest and South, where it delivered the first white Christmas in more than 100 years to several areas, including Atlanta, Georgia.
More than 25 centimetres of snow fell on North Carolina, causing traffic chaos among drivers and road departments unaccustomed to snow.
States of emergency were declared from North Carolina to Massachusetts.
“The latest weather reports are qualifying this storm as a blizzard, and unfortunately, our city is directly in the path,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The “City that Never Sleeps” was put under a blizzard warning until 6 p.m. Monday. –(DPA)