Snow slams northeast US, air travel in chaos
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NEW YORK (AFP) - Travelers were stranded across the northeastern United States as a fierce blizzard ranked among the five worst in a century closed airports and made roads treacherous.
Boston's Logan International Airport as well as the airport in Providence, Rhode Island, were closed and thousands of flights were delayed or cancelled at airports in northeastern and midwestern US states as residents dug out from the first major snowstorm of the year.
A blizzard warning was in effect on Sunday for parts of eastern New York and New England with the National Weather Service warning the storm could rival the "Great Blizzard" of 1978.
"A few locations will likely approach or even exceed amounts (of snow) received during the 1978 blizzard," the service said in a "hazardous weather outlook."
"This is likely to be a record-setting snowstorm in Boston when comparing against data dating back to 1892," it said.
The service warned of the dangers of snow drifts and possible power outages on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard in southeastern Massachusetts.
Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declared a state of emergency in his northeastern state where 28 inches to 38 inches (71 to 96 centimeters) of snow was expected to fall by late Sunday.
More than 1,000 flights in and out of New York and Boston, and 700 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, were canceled Saturday, according to industry experts.
"It's a complete and utter mess," summed up Rally Caparas, an air travel expert with Travelocity.com, an online reservation service, appearing on CNN television, which reported a total of 3,000 flight cancelations on its web site.
Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania reopened on Sunday after being closed late Saturday because of poor visibility, officials said, but significant delays as well as flight cancelations were reported at other airports including some in New Jersey, Baltimore in Maryland, and Washington.
British airports canceled 31 flights to and from the United States' northeast region, British officials said in London on Sunday. London's main Heathrow airport canceled 29 arrivals and departures after heavy snowfall in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
US authorities begged people to stay off the roads as high winds blowing snow produced whiteout conditions from New York to Maine, bringing normally congested cities to a standstill.
Snow emergency orders directed residents to remove parked cars from major thoroughfares in a bid to clear roads of snow drifts. Snow plows and salt trucks worked through the night.
"This really is a dangerous storm," warned New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appearing at a press conference with emergency officials on Saturday. "I don't think you should take it lightly."
Philadelphia authorities urged people to check in on elderly friends, neighbors and relatives to make sure they have enough heat and food.
A large sector of downtown Toronto, Canada's largest city, was without power Sunday after a water main burst, apparently from frigid temperatures a day after the giant storm hammered southern Canada.
Several large hospitals used emergency power generators as repair crews braved temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees C (minus four degrees F) trying to restore power.