Travel chaos as blizzards hit eastern United States

Blizzards have swept north along the eastern coast of the US, forcing the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights and disrupting rail and road traffic.The winter storm closed New York airports, stranding thousands of people in a busy post-Christmas travel period.The New York area was in the bull’s eye of the storm, receiving up to 46cm (18in) of snow on Sunday.Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia declared emergencies.The southern states of Georgia and South Carolina had their first white Christmas in more than a century.But Washington DC appeared likely to escape the blizzard, with a small amount of snowfall expected.The National Weather Service said the monster snow storm was the result of a low pressure system which is currently intensifying south-east of New York’s Long Island.

It said a full-blown blizzard – meaning winds of at least 35mph (55km/h) along with snow and low visibility – was pummelling eastern New Jersey, New York City and western Long Island.Blizzard warnings remained in effect for coasts of the northern mid-Atlantic states. Officials in eastern Canada said they were also bracing for the storm.The timing of the snowstorm meant disruption for many thousands travelling after Christmas reunions and hampered the start of the shopping sales season and the return to work for many commuters.There were no flights out of two airports serving New York – JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport – early on Monday morning, and very few out of LaGuardia.

Flights were also cancelled at other airports across the north-east and at airports in Washington, Baltimore and Chicago.Delta spokesman Kent Landers said the airline expected cancellations on Monday morning across the north-east but “certainly by Tuesday morning we are aiming to resume normal operations throughout the east coast”.Other airlines were expecting more cancellations and operators were scrambling to rebook passengers.Snow began falling around New York City late on Sunday morning and by the end of the day it had already dropped 18in on some areas, including Brooklyn and the New Jersey shore, with heavy wind gusts.New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Unfortunately our city is directly in the path. It’s hard to stand up in a 55mph wind, so this really is dangerous.”The authorities have deployed 1,700 snow ploughs and about 2,400 street cleaners have been called in to clear snow in the city.Amtrak announced it was cancelling services between Boston and New York City “due to the blizzard conditions affecting a good portion of the east coast” – BBC