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Winter Storm Halts US Holiday Travel


Margaret Ness takes a morning walk through snow in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010.

Margaret Ness takes a morning walk through snow in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010.

A threatening winter storm is working its way up the eastern coast of the United States, triggering flight cancellations and stranding Christmas holiday travelers. The U.S. National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings from Maine down to New Jersey, with up to 50 centimeters of snow predicted in some areas.

Snow and strong, whipping winds are slamming the northeastern coast of the United States from Philadelphia to Boston, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights, stranding countless passengers.

At Washington area's Reagan National Airport, most flights were canceled and travelers were scrambling, trying to rebook their flights.

Rick Russell was trying to leave the U.S. capital Sunday but could not tell when or whether he would find a flight out of town. "It's been disappointing now that I'm here at the airport and I see that my flight to Detroit has been canceled. I may try to reschedule. It looks like Delta (Airlines) is going there. So that's what I'm hoping for - a Delta flight. Maybe," he said.

Airlines and other forms of travel are particularly busy this week, with millions of Americans visiting friends and relatives for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Problems along the U.S. east coast, the nation's most densely populated area, often trigger flight delays far from the scene of the storm.

At New York City's three main airports, more than 1,400 flights were cancelled Sunday even before the heaviest snow arrived.

Air transportation was not the only problem. Highway driving was treacherous in storm-swept areas. The national rail passenger service Amtrak canceled train service between New York and Maine on Sunday night, and there were more rail cancellations in ((the state of)) Virginia.

New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, urged people to remain indoors and delay all travel plans if possible. A blizzard warning for New York City will last well into Monday.

"The meterologists at the National Weather Service are telling us that we may see up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) of snow as well as gale-force winds that could reach up to 55 miles an hour (88 kilometers per hour). It is hard to stand up in a 55-mile-an-hour wind, and particularly when the ground under your feet is slippery. So this is really dangerous," he said.

More than 2,400 sanitation workers are working 12-hour shifts to clear New York City's streets.

Fears of heavy snow in Philadelphia, midway between New York City and Washington, forced the National Football League to reschedule a nationally televised game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.

Boston's New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped ((spread protective plastic bubble wrap over)) one of its holiday attractions - four ice sculptures of penguins, each nearly 150 centimeters tall - to to protect them from the wind and snow.

The National Weather Service says the storm began as low pressure system off the North Carolina coast that strengthened into a major storm.

The snow brought a rare white Christmas to the South. The capital of the state of South Carolina, Columbia, had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887.

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