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Transport struggling to cope as blizzards bring havoc to US

Blizzard conditions dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the US north-east, stranding thousands of airline, bus and rail passengers, with lashing winds and low visibility also buffeting workers returning to their post-Christmas routines.

The storm wreaked havoc on travellers from the Carolinas to Maine, forced the suspension of operations at some of the nation's busiest airports and marooned a passenger bus carrying about 50 people on a New Jersey highway.

Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers on thousands of cancelled flights — more than 1,400 out of the New York City area's three major airports alone — and said they did not expect normal service to resume until Tuesday.

Amtrak cancelled train services from New York to Maine after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. The nation's largest commuter rail system, New York's Long Island Rail Road, also suspended service. Bus companies cancelled routes up and down the east coast, and drivers faced hazardous travel conditions — sometimes with close to zero visibility.

In Monmouth County, New Jersey, snow drifts of up to five feet contributed to stalling a passenger bus on the Garden State Parkway, where snow ploughs were having a difficult time clearing because there were so many stranded cars, state police spokesman Steve Jones said.

The state police's superintendent, Colonel Rick Fuentes, toured parts of the state in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to assess the conditions of the roads and pleaded with people to stay at home.

A blizzard warning, which is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35mph, was in effect from Delaware to the far northern tip of Maine. The storm is expected to

bring up to 4ins of snow an hour. Up to 16ins is expected across nearly all of Rhode Island, Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts, though forecasters said winds of 50mph could create much deeper snow drifts.

States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts, where Governor Deval Patrick urged people who did not have to be on the roads to stay home. Non-essential state workers were also told to stay at home. State police in Rhode Island responded to several snow-related car accidents, including at least two rollovers, but no serious injuries were reported.

Air carriers began cancelling flights on Saturday and warned that more cancellations are likely. Operations were suspended yesterday at New York's John F Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports and at New Jersey's Liberty International.

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