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Storm cancels thousands of flights at NYC-area airports

Plows clear a tarmac at LaGuardia Airport in

Plows clear a tarmac at LaGuardia Airport in Queens during the winter storm on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. LaGuardia had 1,124 flight cancellations, Port Authority officials said. Credit: Charles Eckert

Air travelers were stranded at airports across the New York City area, with the wintry mix causing thousands of flight cancellations and triggering warnings of heavy vehicle traffic to and from the hubs in coming days, officials said.

Nearly 3,000 flights were canceled Tuesday at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, officials said. LaGuardia had 99 percent of its flights canceled while Kennedy saw at least two-thirds of its flights canceled, officials said.

Kennedy had 784 cancellations, Newark 1,029 and LaGuardia 1,124, Port Authority officials said.

Anubav Vasudevan, 36, an assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of Chicago, was returning home from a speaking engagement in Italy. He arrived at Kennedy at 11 p.m. Monday, but had several hours to kill because his flight home to Chicago wasn’t until Wednesday morning.

“I didn’t sleep much. I was just milling about,” Vasudevan said. “I can’t spend two nights in a row at an airport. I’m going to see if I can find a hotel. But it’s going to be tough. A lot of the ones that are close by are already booked.”

At Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, 14 flights were canceled Tuesday. The commercial airport’s first flight out is expected to be Wednesday morning, with Transportation Security Administration officials checking passengers in starting at 8:30 a.m., officials said.

But with the runways and walkways clear, officials said the commercial airport would be ready to handle corporate and private airlines as early as Tuesday evening

“What was left in terms of slush and snow has already dissipated,” said Shelley LaRose-Arken, the airport’s commissioner.

LaRose-Arken said she and her team were watching weather forecasts and knew the storm wouldn’t be as strong as the last storm when the rain in New Jersey hadn’t changed to snow by 6:30 a.m.

“We knew our snow totals were not going to be what was anticipated, but we always prepare for the worst,” LaRose-Arken said.

By Tuesday evening, the blizzard advisory was canceled and the snow transitioned to sleet, then rain. The precipitation was expected to change back to snow before ending, with a total accumulation of 4 to 8 inches, officials said.

In addition to cancellations, the late-winter storm prompted officials to warn of a significant uptick in vehicular traffic to Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports over the next three days. They also urged travelers to take mass transit to airports.

By 5 p.m. regional flying resumed at Kennedy with Delta Flight 499 to Minneapolis, officials said. Many canceled flights were rebooked for Wednesday, with officials warning passengers to contact airlines to reschedule before heading to airports.

Jesse Jones, 35, was going home to North Carolina when his connecting flight was canceled Monday night, he said. Jones, a former Marine who served in Iraq, stayed awake pacing around Kennedy and calling his friends to catch up before his flight home Wednesday morning.

“I could go outside and build a snowman, but that would just leave me cold and sick ... so I’ll just sit right here,” Jones said.


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