February 13, 2006

Record Snowfall Strands Travelers

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK -- New Yorkers dug their way out of thigh-high record snowfall on Monday after the biggest snowstorm of the season canceled flights and delayed trains across the northeastern United States.

The sun came out as people returned to work after relentless snow kept falling most of Sunday, sinking New York City into its deepest snow on record.

The storm cut power to tens of thousands of homes and stranded many people who had gone away for the weekend.

"Things are going to be very, very quiet today, because I'm sure half the portfolio managers in New York and in Boston are going to stay home," said Tom Schrader, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets.

"I think there's certainly going to be somewhat of a shortage of personnel on the New York Stock Exchange."

New York's three main airports had all reopened by early Monday but the Port Authority, which operates them, urged travelers to check with their carrier about their flights.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island reported few outages.

Dozens of schools were closed in Massachusetts and thousands of passengers were stranded at airports in the region. Mass transit in New York was operating as normal but across the city drivers were toiling to dig their cars out.

At least 26.9 inches of snow fell in New York's Central Park, topping a powerful blizzard on December 26, 1947, that killed 77 people, according to the National Weather Service and city archives.

Amtrak said it would try to maintain at least an hourly service on trains up and down the East Coast but more than 20 trains were canceled and it warned of delays.

In Providence, Rhode Island, hundreds of passengers were waiting for trains delayed by more than an hour or canceled.

Boston's Logan International Airport was "wide open," said spokesman Phil Orlandella, describing the airport as very busy despite some delays.

Some 40,000 homes lost power on Sunday in Washington and parts of Maryland and another 85,000 lost power in the Baltimore area, according to utility groups.

Dominion Virginia Power crews should finish restoring power Monday to the final 7,000 of the 121,000 customers in Northern Virginia who had their lights turned out by the first major winter storm of the season.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a very dangerous, big storm," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a weekend news conference.

But with the sun shining brightly on Monday, New Yorkers who have had an unusually mild winter were expected to take to the sledding slopes in Central Park again, as thousands did over the weekend.

Winds gusted at speeds of 55 mph (89 kph) in the Massachusetts' resort region of Cape Cod, whipping up 20-ft seas, the National Weather Service said.

(Additional reporting by Jason Szep and Svea Herbst in Boston, Emily Chasan and Chris Michaud in New York)