Airports reopen as U.S. East Coast digs out from record blizzard

Thousands of cancelled flights will gradually resume and New York City lifted its travel ban Sunday after record snowfall generated by a mammoth blizzard brought much of the U.S. East Coast to a standstill and left at least 14 people dead.

New York City lifts travel ban, thousands of cancelled flights to gradually resume

Dozens of people took part in an impromptu snowball fight in Times Square in Manhattan on Saturday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters )

Millions of Americans began digging themselves out Sunday after a mammoth blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-setting snowfall brought much of the U.S. East Coast to an icy standstill.

The travel ban that barred non-emergency vehicles from the roads of New York City was lifted at 7 a.m. ET Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In Baltimore, a travel ban was also lifted, but some restrictions remained in place.

Mass transit systems that had been partially suspended during the storm were to be restored gradually. Metro trains servicing the  Washington, D.C., area 'will begin providing a limited service starting at 7 a.m. on Monday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said Sunday, adding that fares will not be charged.

Airlines to resume 'very limited operations'

Airports in Washington, New York City and Baltimore were slowly resuming service Sunday, a day after thousands of flights were cancelled.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says more than half of flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport have been cancelled, as have about 85 per cent of flights at LaGuardia Airport. The airports both got more than 60 centimetres of snow.

United Airlines said via Twitter that it plans to start "very limited operations" at Newark, N.J., and other New York City metro airports Sunday afternoon.

In all, 3,359 flights scheduled for Sunday and 635 flights for Monday had been cancelled, according to FlightAware. With 3,100 flights failing to take off Friday and 4,511 being grounded on Saturday, the total of flights grounded was 11,605 for the four-day period.

It was not just another day in New York. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters )

New York, Washington brought to standstill

The massive snowstorm brought both the nation's capital and its largest city to a stop, dumping as much as 90 centimetres of snow and stranding tens of thousands of travellers. At least 14 deaths were blamed on the weather, resulting from car crashes, shovelling snow and hypothermia.

The snow dropped 68.1 centimetres in Central Park, the second-most recorded since 1869. The snowfall narrowly missed tying the previous record of 68.3 centimetres set in February 2006.

The snow finally stopped falling in New York City around 10 p.m. Saturday night, though authorities insisted people stay indoors and off the streets as crews plowed deserted roads and police set up checkpoints to catch violators.

In a Sunday briefing, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said city workers did an "outstanding job" in co-ordinating a storm response and New Yorkers "overwhelmingly" heeded the travel ban.

However, he added, "We want to remind people right now that it is still dangerous out there.

This woman was still able to get around in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"First of all, do not drive if you don't have to, unless it's really urgent. We want people to stay off the streets and keep their cars where they're parked. It is very, very important to recognize that there's a lot of work being done to get this city up and running for Monday."

Despite the warning to remain indoors, several people ventured out to enjoy winter scenes. One thrill-seeker even posted a video on YouTube of snowboarders and skiiers being towed by a vehicle on city streets.

Public schools in the city will reopen on Monday, de Blasio said. However, in Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced schools there will remain closed.

De Blasio said New Yorkers should let warmer temperatures this week melt the snow. He said they should not try to shovel snow away from their cars and dump it in the street.

The show must go on

All Broadway shows -— both matinees and evening performances — were given the green light to go on as normal Sunday after New York state officials lifted their travel ban.

New York's mayor urged people not to dig out their cars on Sunday because that would add more snow to clogged streets. But across the Hudson River in Union City, N.J., there was more room for clearing snow. (Rickey Rogers/Reuters)

The suspension of public transportation Saturday forced Broadway to pull the plug on matinees and evening shows. Most subway lines resumed service Sunday morning.

Carnegie Hall remained shuttered Sunday.

The storm dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England, with areas of Washington surpassing 76.2 centimetres. The heaviest unofficial report was in a rural area of West Virginia, not far from Harpers Ferry, with 101.6 centimetres.

"This is kind of a Top 10 snowstorm," said weather service winter storm expert Paul Kocin, who co-wrote a two-volume textbook on blizzards.

A woman walks along a street in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Saturday. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The usually bustling New York City looked more like a ghost town. With Broadway shows dark, thin crowds shuffled through a different kind of Great White Way, the nickname for a section of the theatre district. Bruce Springsteen cancelled Sunday's scheduled show at Madison Square Garden.

In Washington, monuments that would typically be busy with tourists stood vacant. All mass transit in the capital was to be shut down through Sunday.


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