NY braces for monster storm

Airlines ground hundreds of flights along the Northeast corridor

Eleven-year-old twins, Cameron and Danielle Whitlock, make a snowman in their front yard in Decatur on an unusually snowy Christmas morning on Saturday. AP

Airlines grounded hundreds of flights on Sunday along the Northeast corridor in anticipation of the storm, affecting major airports, including New York’s JFK and Newark. Airlines said more cancellations were likely as the storm progressed.

Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, where a rare white Christmas came with reports of dozens of car crashes.

In Washington transportation officials pre-treated roads and readied 200 salt trucks, plows and other pieces of equipment to fight the 6 inches or more expected to fall in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Northeast is expected to get the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for Sunday and Monday, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times.

A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.

As much as 18 inches could fall on the New Jersey shore with wind gusts over 40 mph. Baltimore and Washington were expected to get 6 inches or more of snow, with surrounding areas forecast to have as many as 9, the weather service said. By early Sunday, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency.

“Winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour will cause blowing snow and that’s going to cause the worst of it,” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said on Saturday night.
“We are urging extreme caution in travel. Try to get home early and if you don’t have to travel don’t go.”

Continental Airlines cancelled 250 Sunday departures from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York City.

United Airlines cancelled dozens of Sunday departures from Newark, Philadelphia, New York’s LaGuardia and JFK, Boston and other airports.

AirTran and Southwest Airlines also cancelled flights, mostly in or out of Washington Dulles, Baltimore and Newark.

American Airlines said it anticipated cancelling flights, but hadn’t yet done so. Most carriers were waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urging passengers to make changes through their websites.

The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system that will intensify off the North Carolina coast on Sunday morning and strengthen into a major storm as it moves northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

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