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Snow grounds thousands of flights in NY region

Front-loaders clear snow from the area around Gates

Front-loaders clear snow from the area around Gates C and D outside Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in New York. All flights were suspended temporarily at JFK and LaGuardia airports due to wind and whiteout conditions. Credit: Front-loaders clear snow from the area around Gates C and D outside Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in New York. All flights were suspended temporarily at JFK and LaGuardia airports due to wind and whiteout conditions.

The massive snowstorm that hit the Northeast caused chaos for travelers as thousands of flights in the New York region were canceled.

“Two-thirds of all flights at Port Authority airports are canceled,” the Port Authority said in a release Thursday morning, referring to LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports. “Airline passengers are strongly urged to call their carrier before going to airports today or later this week and also should not go to the airports unless they have a reservation.”

More than 2,300 flights to or from LaGuardia, JFK and Newark were canceled, according to FlightAware. More than 100 flights were diverted from four major airports in the storm’s path and at least 71 of them were from Kennedy, said Sara Orsi, spokeswoman for FlightAware.com, an online flight tracking service. A Singapore Airlines jumbo jet, Flight 26 from Frankfurt, Germany, was forced to land at the smaller Stewart International Airport in New Windsor in Orange County, according to FlightAware.

That amount of diverted flights means carriers will have to relocate planes, find new crews and rebook passengers, Orsi said. “That’s an incredible burden on the system,” she said.

Many planes were diverted to airports far from their destinations or forced into long holding patterns as nearby hubs, such as Baltimore, ran out of time and space for additional diverted flights, she said.

LaGuardia lifted flight suspensions Thursday evening and Kennedy flights are expected to resume by 7 a.m. Friday, the Port Authority said in a tweet. At Newark, flights were still suspended as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the authority said.

Long Island MacArthur Airport, meanwhile, announced at 5:45 a.m. Thursday that its major carriers — American, Frontier and Southwest — canceled outbound flights as a result of the storm. The airport shut down at 11:30 a.m. due to the inclement weather, but it was expected to reopen at midnight, with the first flight expected to arrive at 10:25 a.m. Friday, said Shelley LaRose-Arken, MacArthur’s aviation commissioner.

“We are in whiteout conditions, similar to the roadways so it’s difficult to get equipment out there to remove the snow,” LaRose-Arken said during the storm. “Right now all our airline flights are canceled until tomorrow.”

Officials there kept roughly 50 employees working to clear public roadways and access points, as well as the airfield.

“The problem is the wind,” LaRose-Arken said. “We’re getting wind gusts [of] 44 miles per hour. And visibility . . . it’s difficult for our snow teams to even get out there . . . It’s blowing so hard that it’s just blowing back on the runway.”

The snow and high winds forced dozens of New York-bound flights to be diverted to Washington’s Dulles International and other airports.

The Port Authority said it would distribute cots, water and blankets to some stranded passengers. A spokesman for American Airlines said the company did not anticipate having many stranded travelers at New York-area airports because it canceled most of its flights on Wednesday.

Kennedy Airport officials, meanwhile, said AirTrain service was partially restored by Thursday afternoon.

With Ellen Yan

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