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Blizzard Batters East Coast, Creating Travel Havoc

December 27, 2010 at 5:02 PM EST
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Thousands of U.S. travelers found their holiday weekends unexpectedly extended due to a massive winter storm that roared up the East Coast, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places in the Northeast and canceling thousands of flights. Jeffrey Brown has the latest on efforts to get stranded passengers to their destinations.
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JEFFREY BROWN: For thousands of people today, the trip home for the holidays turned into an ongoing battle with a blizzard. Airports began reopening after the big storm that roared up the East Coast on Sunday, but the damage was done.

In airport after airport across the Northeast, the scene was the same: stranded people whose planes were snowbound.

WOMAN: You know, we thought we made it. We thought we were going to be the last plane out, but then, you know, it turned sour.

JEFFREY BROWN: By the hundreds, they spent the night in airport terminals from the Carolinas to Canada, as flight cancellations Sunday and today climbed above 5,000.

WOMAN: Well, our flight was canceled. And they have given us a flight for 8:00 tomorrow morning, but said that, “don’t count on it.”

JEFFREY BROWN: Travelers at Boston’s Logan International Airport could only watch today as plows struggled to clear the runways. All three major airports in the New York City area were forced to shut down Sunday, but all planned to be open by this evening.

Even so, with hundreds of planes out of position, would-be passengers were left waiting in Chicago and as far west as California. And airlines warned it could take much of the week to find seats for everyone at a time when flights were already booked for the busy holiday season.

Meanwhile, train travel offered little relief.

WOMAN: When we got here, we had heard that they were already canceled — canceled the trains.

JEFFREY BROWN: Amtrak service was halted from New York to Boston yesterday and slowly began recovering today.

Even underground travel had its problems. Passengers in New York City spent a cold night in an unheated subway train after it got stuck.

MAN: No. It was no heat, no nothing. We are not going nowhere.

JEFFREY BROWN: Out on the streets of New York, buses were still stranded on snowed-in roads this morning, as winds of 50 miles an hour or better blew the snow into deep drifts.

In all, the city got nearly 20 inches six snow. But, by afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the recovery was under way.

NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: It was a very heavy snowfall. And, as you know, it was accompanied by intense winds. But, that said, things could have been far worse, and a number of factors are working in our favor.

JEFFREY BROWN: Central and Northern New Jersey got two to three feet of snow in places. And the storm also dropped a foot-deep blanket across Philadelphia. Workers labored today to clear the city’s football stadium for the Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings to play tomorrow night. The game was postponed from Sunday night.

Farther north in Boston, streets were mostly empty this morning, as people heeded appeals not to venture out.

BOSTON MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: We are asking everyone to stay home. Stay off the main thoroughfares.

JEFFREY BROWN: In all, emergencies were declared in six states as far south as the Carolinas. The storm had crossed the Deep South before its push north. And Atlanta saw its first white Christmas since 1882.