US winter storm wreaks havoc on travel

A major winter storm that has brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season across the US.
A major winter storm that has brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season across the US.

A major winter storm brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season and blanketed a wide swath of the United States in snow as it wreaked havoc on air travel and caused dangerously icy conditions throughout New England.

The US 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.

More than 1,500 flights were cancelled nationwide on Sunday, with Boston's Logan Airport among the hardest hit, according to flight tracking company FlightAware.

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

The heavily populated coast from New York to Boston largely escaped major snowfall Sunday but saw plummeting temperatures as snow gave way to icy rain and sleet in parts.

Manhattan saw mostly rain and cities along Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts' coast recorded 5 to 12 cm of snow.

Mountain regions saw significantly more, with the Adirondacks in upstate New York registering up to 20 inches while western Massachusetts' Berkshires saw as much as 10.

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

Officials warned people to limit their time outside to prevent frostbite and avoid treacherous travel conditions. They also said places would see strong wind gusts, flooding and power outages.

"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 ice accumulated on trees and power lines Sunday, utilities in Connecticut reported more than 20,000 customers without power.

"We had more freezing rain and sleet than we expected," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin as crews across the state raced to clear and treat major roadways to prevent dangerous black ice conditions.

Amtrak canceled trains across the Midwest and Northeast over the weekend, but said full service would resume Monday.

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.

Australian Associated Press