Video: Record snowfall puts Northeast in deep-freeze

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/27/2011 4:44:12 PM ET 2011-01-27T21:44:12

Thousands of flights were canceled Wednesday and Thursday, and travelers heading in and out of the East Coast are facing major headaches after the region took yet another major winter weather pounding.

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A fresh 19 inches of snow slammed New York City, giving the city its snowiest January on record, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

Story: More wintry weather heads to the Northeast

The snow in New York virtually shut down LaGuardia and Kennedy airports for much of the day. When flights resumed, delays averaged about two hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Flights also resumed at airports in the Washington, D.C., region after overnight runway closures and flight cancellations left hundreds of travelers stranded.

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By Thursday afternoon, more than 2,850 flights had been canceled, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.

About 1,500 passengers were stranded overnight at Philadelphia International Airport, according to an airport spokeswoman.

“Don’t go in to the airport,” said Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer guidebooks. “You’ll be as effective on the phone or on the Internet getting booked on another flight.”

Story: Fight back when your flight is canceled

Frommer urges loyalty members to call the special phone numbers provided by an airline. “The numbers tend to be better staffed,” she said, adding that airlines sometimes offer rewards members better perks.

Airlines hoped to run nearly normal schedules on Friday. If so, that would make Thursday's problems a nuisance but not as bad as the late-December Northeast blizzard that wiped out more than 10,000 flights over three days. A mid-January storm caused the cancellation of nearly 9,000 flights.

Image: Planes are grounded on a snow covered tarmac at New York's LaGuardia Airport
Jessica Rinaldi  /  Reuters
Planes are grounded on a snow-covered tarmac Thursday at New York's LaGuardia International Airport.

By Thursday afternoon, Delta and its Delta Connection affiliate canceled 675 flights, US Airways and its regional affiliates canceled 559 and JetBlue Airways dropped 260.

Continental and United had erased more than 650 flights between them by midmorning, although the numbers were likely to go higher once afternoon flights were counted.

Southwest canceled 129 flights including everything before early afternoon at Islip, N.Y.

"Slow-going is the mantra," said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. "Flying is not the problem; it's moving people and planes and equipment."

American Airlines and regional affiliate American Eagle scrubbed 246 flights by afternoon and were seeing long delays in the New York area, said spokesman Tim Smith. Another problem, he said: "Some employees are having difficulty getting to their airports."

The airlines were allowing passengers scheduled to fly to or from the Northeast to delay their trips a few days without getting socked by a ticket-change fee, which is usually $150 for domestic travel.

AirTran Airways, which had canceled 20 flights by afternoon, was allowing travelers to delay trips without penalty by more than a week — longer than the usual grace period. Spokesman Christopher White said that made it easier to put stranded travelers on later flights.

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The airlines were allowing passengers scheduled to fly to or from the Northeast to delay their trips a few days without getting socked by a ticket-change fee, which is usually $150 for domestic travel.

AirTran Airways, which had canceled 18 flights by midmorning, was allowing travelers to delay trips without penalty by more than a week — longer than the usual grace period. Spokesman Christopher White said that made it easier to put stranded travelers on later flights.

If you are a traveler who needs to rebook a flight, and you’re not happy, Frommer suggests you take what the airline first offers and call them back later. “You may not get the rebooked itinerary you want, but try, try again and you may be more successful.”

While airlines are operating with fuller flights than a year ago thanks to a modest recovery in travel demand, planes are typically less full in late January than in December. That was expected to make it easier to rebook travelers — in sharp contrast to late December, when it took some passengers several days to get home.

Still, some travelers were stuck overnight. They tried to make the best of the situation.

Mark Wilson, a marketing executive from Portland, Ore., intended to fly home Wednesday night but his flight out of Newark, N.J., was canceled. So was the flight that the airline booked him on Thursday morning.

"It looks like I'll be going home on Friday," said Wilson, who planned to look for a hotel and Internet access. "There's not much point in getting stressed out about it because it's weather. You might as well just work around it and that's what I'm trying to do."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Photos: East Coast storm

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  1. Two men push a stuck car though the snow on Thursday, Jan. 27, in the Bronx Borough of New York. The overnight snow left more than a foot of snow in the area. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Passengers wait Thursday for the John F. Kennedy International Airport to reopen after it was closed overnight due to heavy snowfall. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A pedestrian makes his way through Morningside Park in Manhattan after snow blanketed New York City on Thursday. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Stella Anderson, 6, and her father, Roger Anderson catch air while sledding near Columbus Circle in New York City's Central Park on Thursday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg canceled school and shut down non-emergency government offices. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pedestrians jump over the slush and snow along 7th Avenue in New York before the big snowfall. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A flag pokes above the snow around mounds of covered grave markers at Veterans Memorial Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Thursday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ira Abney negotiates snow-covered subway stairs in the aftermath of the storm in Philadelphia on Thursday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A man shovels a walkway to a mailbox in Manchester, Conn., after another winter storm on Thursday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Planes are grounded on a snow covered tarmac at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man shovels snow off his car on the upper west side of New York City on Thursday. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Three men attempt to free an automobile from the snow on New York's Upper West Side on Thursday. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pedestrians make their way past a pile of snow along Sixth Avenue in New York. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Abandoned vehicles litter the George Washington Parkway in McLean, Virginia, just outside Washington on Thursday. The snowstorm caused havoc as many motorists abandoned their stranded vehicles during evening rush-hour in the Capital region. (Hyungwon Kang / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A young boy and his father with their sled hike up Cedar Hill in New York's Central Park on Thursday, the morning after another storm dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas overnight. All New York City public schools and non-emergency city government offices were closed. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Footprints in the snow are seen in front of the Lincoln Memorial, looking toward the Washington Monument on Thursday. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Following an overnight snow storm that hit the New York area, a man shovels a sidewalk in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Thursday morning. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A man walks down W. 49th St. in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York after a blizzard on Thursday. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Workers clear a platform at the Edison train station as snow falls during a storm late Wednesday, Jan. 26, in Edison, N.J. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Outbound traffic creeps along Interstate 66 across the Potomac River from Washington, in Arlington, Va. after a major winter storm snarled rush hour traffic in the Nation's Capitol, Wednesday. (J. David Ake / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A snow plow clears the front of the White House as a storm hits Washington late Wednesday. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. As seen from a motorcade vehicle, a portion of the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama makes its way through snarled traffic and spun out cars on Suitland Parkway on Wednesday near Morningside, Md., enroute to the White House in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A woman makes her way down a snowy sidewalk on Wednesday in New York City. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A subway train exits a tunnel into snowfall as commuters wait at a station on Wednesday in Brooklyn. (Bebeto Matthews / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Joel Chuta clears sidewalks at Belvedere Square, Wednesday in north Baltimore. Snow and slush covered the Baltimore region in the morning with heavier accumulations expected later in the day. (Amy Davis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Snow-covered bicycles are parked on the University of Delaware Newark campus Wednesday. (The News Journal/robert Craig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A vehicle lies on its side along Kelly Drive during as a winter storm moved into Philadelphia on Wednesday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. An exercise rider drives a horse through a snowstorm at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York, on Wednesday. Heavy snow moved into the New York City area as a fast moving winter storm worked its way up the northeastern U.S. coast. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Charlene Cruz attempts Wednesday to walk with her daughter Carmelia, 18 months, along U.S. Route 6 in Bristol, Conn. near the intersection with Oakland Street during the latest winter storm to hit Southern New England. (Mike Orazzi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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