Blizzard slams U.S. northeast, causes travel havoc

* Flights canceled on heavily traveled holiday weekend

* NFL football game postponed; more snow on the way

By Daniel Trotta and Ben Berkowitz

NEW YORK, Dec 26 (BestGrowthStock) – Heavy snow and strong winds
slammed the northeastern United States on Sunday, canceling
hundreds of flights and causing havoc as travelers scurried to
return to work after the Christmas holiday.

The U.S. National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings
along the coast from Maine down to New Jersey with winter storm
warnings in effect for nearly the entire East Coast.

The air travel nightmare was made worse when Amtrak
canceled passenger rail service between New York and Boston.

The weather service forecast 15 to 25 inches (38 to 64 cm)
of snowfall in New York City through Sunday night with
widespread blowing of snow expected on Monday, when many people
will be returning to work after celebrating Christmas.

“Unfortunately our city is directly in the path,” New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference, saying gale
force winds of up to 55 mph (88 kph) were expected.

Some 2,400 sanitation workers were called in to clear snow
from the streets, Bloomberg said said.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of
emergency as much of New England braced for up to 20 inches (50
cm) of snowfall.

In one sign of the severity of the storm, an NFL football
game scheduled for Philadelphia was postponed, forcing the
Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings to reschedule their
game for Tuesday.

Conditions deteriorated steadily on Sunday afternoon in the
Boston area. Grocery stores were stripped of basic supplies
like milk and bread, and shoppers stocked up on firewood and
snow removal necessities such as shovels and ice melt.

A snow emergency was in place in Boston, meaning only
essential employees were being asked to work on Monday.

After the southern United States was hit with a rare “White
Christmas,” snowstorms moved north where the major cities were
pelted with snow blowing sideways.

At least four airlines — United Continental Holdings’
United Airlines and Continental, Delta Air Lines (DAL.N: ) and
American Airlines (AMR.N: ) — said on their websites they were
granting waivers and rescheduling rights for people traveling
through northeastern U.S. airports this weekend.

BAD DAY FOR AIR TRAVEL

Delta canceled about 850 flights, roughly one-sixth of its
schedule, while American and JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O: ) each
canceled about 265 flights, airline representatives said.

Most of American’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.

JetBlue normally schedules some 750 flights daily in the
northeast. A spokeswoman said passengers ticketed for flights
through Tuesday would be allowed to rebook anytime through Jan.
14 without penalties.

A spokesman for United Airlines said it had 110
cancellations from its systemwide daily schedule of more than
3,000 flights, and Continental canceled 265 as of mid-morning
on Sunday. Continental’s cancellations chiefly affected its
Newark, New Jersey hub operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s real-time flight
tracker showed no delays at any of the major New York area
airports. In many cases, though, airlines appear to have
canceled flights rather than run the risk of delays.

“We’re not showing delays at Kennedy or Newark because
there’s been a great reduction in volume because of all the
cancellations,” an FAA spokeswoman said. “They’re keeping pace
with the flights that are out there.”

There have been some delays at LaGuardia, she said, because
of visibility issues.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, which runs the region’s airports, said all three
airports remained open but that there had been about 1,000
flights canceled.

The New York region’s bridges and tunnels remained opened
and in good order, she said, though the Staten Island bridges
have had reduced speed limits imposed due to the weather.
(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud and Ros Krasny; editing
by Todd Eastham)

Blizzard slams U.S. northeast, causes travel havoc