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December 27, 2010

Northeast US Digs Out From Massive Storm

by David Byrd

The Northeastern United States is digging out from a massive snow storm that dumped nearly 50 centimeters of snow in a huge swath from Philadelphia to Maine Sunday.  Airports, train stations, and highways remain buried as thousands of travelers struggle to get home from the Christmas holidays.

Blinding winds and waist-deep snow paralyzed the region Sunday, with nearly 51 centimeters of snow in New York's Central Park. Because of the weather, nearly 3,000 flights were canceled in the New York New Jersey area.

Arlene Salac, with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, says that some service should be restored to the area by late Monday.

"The three major airports in the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area - JFK, LaGuardia and Newark - are closed," Salac said. "The Port Authority does expect to open those later today.  Boston is open and Philadelphia is open."

Winds gusting at nearly 50 kilometers per hour also hindered travel, with train service between New York and Boston canceled and bus services suspended.

Christina Leeds of Amtrak says that some trains are running, but delays remain.

"We did resume a limited schedule this morning," Leeds said. "Service had been suspended at 5:00 pm yesterday [Sunday].  There is a limited service on the Northeast Regional service south of Washington, DC.  Service between New York and Washington, D.C. continues to run normally."

The high winds also made travel difficult, with visibility low in many areas.  Arlene Salac says even as the snow stops, the winds continue to cause travel headaches.

"A lot of times when you have high winds it does affect the runway configurations that we can use at our airports," Salac explained. "And it does contribute to delays.  As a matter of fact we are expected to continue to have some high winds today in the New York area."
Amtrak's Leeds says drifting and blowing snow makes clearing the rails more difficult as well.

"In this case there was a combination of snow, cold weather, and high wind that played into those problems where we had to make sure that the signals and the switches and the overhead wires are working properly," said Leeds.

Dean DeVore, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in Pennsylvania, says that the storm might be headed out to sea, but the winds are expected to continue for the next few days.

"The storm itself yes did cause some wind, but now on the back side of the storm you're having this difference in pressure with high pressure building in really funneling that air from the northwest down and that's what's causing the high winds to continue for a day or so after the storm departs," said DeVore.

He says the weather is expected to warm later in the week, with New York reaching a high of about five degrees Celsius.  The winds are also expected to decrease.