A winter blizzard moved across the northeastern United States on Monday, disrupting air and rail travel and forcing motorists to deal with blowing snow and icy roads at the end of the busy Christmas weekend.
The storm, the first widespread blizzard of the season, unleashed powerful winds as it moved northward up the coast, dumping up to 18 inches of sideways-blowing snow on some areas, with more expected ahead of the morning commute.
With many Americans returning home after one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, the U.S. National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings from Maine to New Jersey with winter storm warnings in effect for nearly the entire East Coast.
It said the heaviest snowfall had occurred in eastern New Jersey, New York City and western Long Island. The forecast was for up to 25 inches of snow in parts of the region.
New York area airports including JFK International were closed Sunday evening but were expected to reopen early Monday.
At least 2,000 flights in the region had been canceled and the Amtrak passenger rail service between New York and Boston was suspended.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said limited service on the busy route was expected to resume shortly before the start of the Monday commute.
They (the trains) would run on the hour but not as many as would run on a normal weekday, Cole told Fox News.
Six states, including Massachusetts and Maine, declared state of emergency.
Delta Air Lines canceled about one-sixth of its flight schedule, and American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Continental Airlines canceled roughly 265 flights each and United Airlines 110, airline representatives said.
NEW YORK BRACES
Many motorists heeded warnings to stay off of the roads. Traffic moved slowly on the region's highways, though New York-area bridges and tunnels remained open. Some bridges had reduced speed limits imposed.
After the southern United States was hit with a rare White Christmas on Saturday, the snowstorms plowed to the northeast, where the major coastal cities were engulfed in blowing snow.
The blizzard had been expected, allowing cities time to crank out the salt and snow plows. Some 2,400 New York City sanitation workers were called in to clear snow from the streets, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Shoppers had a chance to stock up on milk, bread, firewood as well as snow shovels and ice melting products.
Most of American Airline's cancellations were for flights after mid-afternoon Sunday, and the airline said it hoped to be up and running again by mid-morning on Monday.
Continental's cancellations chiefly affected its hub operations at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport, which was shut down on Sunday night, WINS radio reported.
In a sign of the severity of the storm, an NFL football game scheduled on Sunday in Philadelphia was postponed, forcing the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings to reschedule the contest for Tuesday.
The move sparked criticism, especially as the sport loves to glorify great games in snow.
It's an absolute joke, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a big Eagles fan, told Fox. I was looking forward to this. It would have been a real experience. This is what football is all about.
We're becoming a nation of wussies, Rendell said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz, Chris Michaud and Ros Krasny; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)