Blizzards strand thousands in US
Blizzard conditions have marooned thousands of air, rail and road travellers on the US East Coast, shutting down airports and rail lines for a second day, stranding buses on buried roads and forcing New York subway commuters to spend a cold night in unheated trains.
Officials urged anyone who did not have to drive to stay off roads in the region, where high winds pushed snow into deep drifts across streets, railways and runways. More than two feet of snow had fallen in some areas.
The New York area faced the brunt of a storm that meandered across the country over the Christmas weekend before heading up the East Coast. Emergencies were declared in at least six states as jets got snowed in or never left the gate.
"People are exhausted. They want to get home," said Eric Schorr, 22, who was trying to get from New York to Tel Aviv on Sunday night but ended up spending about nine hours stuck on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport, finally ending back in the airport around 3am local time. His flight was rescheduled for 7pm.
Similar delays have produced outrage in the past, but Mr Schorr said he and his fellow travellers were "as comfortable as you can be on a plane," with the crew passing out drinks and serving dinner.
Authorities had to rescue hundreds of motorists across the region, including about 100 people trying to get back to New York from a gambling trip to Atlantic City, some of them diabetic or elderly. As five-foot drifts piled up on the road, state troopers took water and food to passengers who were feeling ill.
"Most of the people are pretty calm, but they are getting antsy," said state trooper Chris Menello, who raided his personal stash of food for the gamblers.
Wind gusts as high as 80mph knocked out power to thousands. Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers on thousands of cancelled flights but said they did not expect normal service to resume until later in the week. The Amtrak service was trickling back after being knocked out from New York to Boston.
Hundreds of cold, hungry and tired air passengers spent the night at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports. Officials said they were provided blankets and cots, but some travellers were not allowed to retrieve their checked luggage, leaving them with no extra clothing or toiletries.
Not even New York's subway system - usually a reliable workhorse during a snow storm - could withstand the blizzard. Some subway passengers were stranded for hours on trains that broke down overnight in Queens and finally pulled into a station by midday Monday.