Thou­sands of stranded pas­sen­gers turn ter­mi­nals into open-air ho­tels

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

NEW YORK: When An­gela Mad­sen was pulled off her plane and her wheel­chair stayed on board, she knew she was in for a rough night. The para­plegic ath­lete strug­gled to get into the bath­rooms at Kennedy Air­port. Turn­ing the wheels on her bor­rowed wheel­chair strained her shoul­ders. Sleep­ing was im­pos­si­ble.

"I ac­tu­ally got out of it and laid on the floor," Mad­sen said.

It was, she said, a mis­er­able time - one that was shared by mil­lions of peo­ple on Mon­day, in tra­vails big and small, se­ri­ous and sur­real, af­ter the bliz­zard of De­cem­ber 2010 sucker-punched the northeastern U.S. dur­ing one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Air travel in the nation's busiest, most crowded airspace nearly shut down, and thou­sands of stranded pas­sen­gers turned ter­mi­nals into open-air ho­tels while they waited for planes to take off and land on plowed run­ways.

A trac­tor-trailer skid­ded off a road and smashed into a house in Maine. A woman went into la­bor on a New Jersey high­way, caus­ing a traf­fic jam that stranded 30 ve­hi­cles. Rails on the nor­mally re­li­able New York sub­way shorted out. Winds top­ping 65 mph ripped power lines, leav­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple in the dark across New Eng­land.

This storm sim­ply didn't play fair, cold-cock­ing the North­east with more than 2 feet of snow on a hol­i­day week­end when ev­ery­one seemed to be out of town, groggy with hol­i­day cheer or just un­pre­pared.

In New York, outer-bor­ough res­i­dents com­plained of a slug­gish re­sponse by snow plow crews who still hadn't fin­ished clear­ing the streets. State Sen. Carl Kruger, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Brook­lyn, called the city's re­sponse a "colos­sal fail­ure." Fire of­fi­cials said the un­plowed streets and aban­doned cars made it harder to re­spond to emer­gen­cies, in­clud­ing a five-alarm, wind­whipped blaze at a Queens apart­ment build­ing Mon­day night. A testy Mayor Michael Bloomberg de­fended the city's cleanup ef­fort, say­ing the crews were be­ing slowed down by aban­doned cars on the streets. "There's no rea­son for ev­ery­body to panic," he said. "Our city is do­ing ex­actly what you'd want it to do."

Af­ter spend­ing Sun­day night toss­ing and turn­ing on air­port floors, thou­sands of bleary-eyed trav­el­ers spent Mon­day stand­ing in lines, beg­ging for flights, fight­ing for taxis and hunt­ing for ho­tel rooms.

The storm wreaked havoc on al­most ev­ery form of con­veyance: from the buses at the nation's busiest ter­mi­nal near Times Square to the re­gion's usu­ally punc­tual com­muter trains. Lit­tle prob­lems quickly snow­balled: On New Jersey's Gar­den State Park­way, a mo­torist strug­gled to find the shoul­der of the road af­ter his wife went into la­bor, caus­ing a traf­fic jam that even­tu­ally stranded 30 ve­hi­cles, state trooper Chris Menello said. Among them were two buses full of peo­ple re­turn­ing from At­lantic City.

Two of New York's ma­jor air­ports - LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional - be­gan to re­ceive in­bound flights on Mon­day night. Ne­wark Lib­erty was ex­pected to start re­ceiv­ing in­bound flights early Tues­day. Nearly 1,500 to­tal flights were can­celed at all three air­ports.

"Ev­ery­one was clap­ping to­ward the end," said Pa­trick Wacker, 37, aboard an Air Canada flight from Toronto that was the first to land at LaGuardia at about 7:40 p.m. Mon­day. Wacker had been stranded in Toronto for a day while try­ing to get back to New York af­ter vis­it­ing his par­ents in Frank­furt, Ger­many. -Ap

HO­BART: In this photo, the 100-foot su­per­maxi Wild Oats XI sails past the Or­gan Pipes as she races to­wards Ho­bart to claim pro­vi­sional line hon­ors dur­ing the Rolex Syd­ney Ho­bart yacht race off Ho­bart. -Ap

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