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Bitter Cold Sets in as Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc on Travel

by Philip Marcelo and Catherine Perloff
Sunday Jan 20, 2019
John Ott clears snow on Madison Avenue in Pittsfield, Mass.
John Ott clears snow on Madison Avenue in Pittsfield, Mass.  (Source:Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)

A major winter storm brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season and covered a large swath of the country in snow as it wreaked havoc on air travel and caused slick road conditions throughout New England Sunday.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings or advisories for part or all of at least 15 states stretching from southeast Missouri to the northern tip of Maine ahead of the weekend storm.

Nearly 2,000 flights were canceled around the country Sunday, with Boston's Logan Airport being one of the hardest hit, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking company.

Typically bustling security lines, ticketing counters and baggage claims were largely deserted Sunday morning at Logan Airport, but some stranded passengers lingered.

"We've been sleeping, playing Candy Crush," said Xavi Ortega, a 32-year old engineer whose 10:30 p.m. flight to Barcelona was canceled.

Ortega said he and his wife, who reside in the Spanish city, slept overnight at the airport and wouldn't be able to get onto another flight until Sunday night.

Meanwhile residents along the heavily populated coast from New York to Boston awoke Sunday having largely escaped major snowfall but bracing for plummeting temperatures that will likely lead to a hard freeze and potentially dangerous conditions.

Manhattan saw mostly rain, cities along Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts' coast recorded two to five inches, but mountainous interior communities were blanketed in fresh snow.

The Adirondacks in upstate New York recorded up to 20 inches in certain areas while western Massachusetts' Berkshires saw as much as 10 inches. Parts of the Vermont have registered a foot of snow and could see up to another foot by the time the storm is over.

Nicholas Nicolet and his 6-year-old son Rocco welcomed the fresh powder as they cross-country skied on the sidewalks of Montpelier, Vermont early Sunday morning during the storm.

"We think it's great," said Nicholas Nicolet.

Meteorologists warned the primary concern now is plunging temperatures that will be some of the coldest felt so far this season.

Wind chills were expected to hit in the teens in the New York City area, 25 below in Albany and down to 40 below in the Adirondacks.

In New England, they're expected to fall to as low as 20 below zero around Boston, 30 below zero in the Berkshires and as low as 35 below zero in parts of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

Officials warned people to limit their time outside to prevent frostbite and avoid treacherous travel conditions. They also said to prepare for flooding and power outages in places.

"It's life-threatening," said Ray O'Keefe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. "These are dangerous conditions that we're going to be in and they're prolonged, right through tomorrow."

As of Sunday at noon, utilities in Connecticut were reporting more than 19,000 customers without power and more outages were expected in the region as ice accumulated on trees and power lines.

"We had more freezing rain and sleet than we expected," observed Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin as he extended his city's parking ban so public works crews could clear streets before the ice hardened.

Amtrak canceled some trains Saturday from Chicago to Washington and New York and between New York and Boston and Pennsylvania on Sunday.

A ferry service route across Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York was also closed Sunday and flights were mostly cancelled at Vermont's Burlington International Airport and New Hampshire's Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

The powerful, wide-ranging storm was caused by the clash of an Arctic high-pressure system with a low-pressure system coming through the Ohio Valley.

It caused travel problems as it dumped up to 10 inches of snow on parts of the Midwest Saturday.

In Chicago, a plane skidded from a slick runway at O'Hare International Airport. No injuries were reported. In Kansas, a snowplow driver was killed when his vehicle rolled over. And in southeastern Missouri, slippery conditions caused a 15-vehicle crash on Interstate 55.

President Donald Trump urged Americans affected by the winter storm to "be careful" in a tweet early Sunday, but, as he's done in the past, he conflated the short-term weather phenomenon with longer-term climate change.

The White House's own National Climate Assessment recently rejected the idea that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast uncertainty on whether Earth is warming.

"Amazing how big this system is," Trump tweeted. "Wouldn't be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!"

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Associated Press reporters Bob Salsberg in Boston, Deepti Hajela in New York, and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier contributed to this story.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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