Image: Vehicles travel slowly in near white out conditions along State Route 309 in Mountaintop, Pa.
Mark Moran  /  AP
Vehicles travel slowly in near white out conditions along State Route 309 in Mountaintop, Pa., Saturday.
NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 10/29/2011 11:12:55 PM ET 2011-10-30T03:12:55

An unusual October snowstorm grounded hundreds of planes, delayed others and caused dozens to divert Saturday from New York-area airports.

Road travel was treacherous in some parts of the Northeast, and officials urged motorists to stay home.

The tracking site Flightaware.com reported nearly 600 flights to Northeastern airports canceled, including destinations such as Philadelphia, New York, Newark, Boston and others.

La Guardia and JFK airport officials in New York said flights were coming in and going out, but airlines made their own decisions about cancellations.

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One runway at Newark airport was closed but the airport remained open, officials told NBC News. All domestic outbound flights were canceled, according to Mayor Cory Booker.

Story: More than 2 million lose power during rare October storm

Airlines diverted about 50 New York-bound flights to other airports, according to NYCAviation.com.

The smaller airport in Teterboro, N.J., was briefly closed.

Passengers were held without water or bathrooms for 7 hours on JetBlue flight 504 at Bradley International outside Hartford, Conn., when their Fort Lauderdale, Fla., flight to Newark was diverted, NBC Connecticut reported. Firefighters took people off the plane on a ladder after a paraplegic reported a medical issue. JetBlue Flight 1013 from Boston to New York was also grounded for hours at Bradley and ran out of water before being towed to a gate.

The airline issued an apology late Saturday.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the state was trying to move 1,000 cots to the airport to make stranded travelers from 23 diverted flights comfortable, NBC Connecticut reported.

Disruptions for fliers
Richard Juneau flew into Newark on Saturday from Tel Aviv, Israel, and was supposed to make a connecting flight to Houston, but it was canceled.

As his cell phone battery died, he told msnbc.com during a taxi ride from the airport, he was able to call his sister, who booked him a hotel room in Jersey City, which was "not exactly on the bucket list" of places he wanted to visit.

"But," he said, "I'm glad to not sleep on the airport floor."

His airline made arrangements for him to catch a noon Sunday flight to Houston.

At Newark's airport baggage claim, stranded passengers whose connecting flights had been canceled lined up to get airport buses to nearby hotels.

"They better get more doughnuts," said one woman sitting across from a Dunkin' Donuts kiosk, "because it's going to be a long night."

Some took to Twitter and other social media to vent frustrations over delays of up to four hours.

"Darn you cold weather on the East Coast," said one tweet by a person identifying herself as Christie Perkins.

"Flight got delayed, stuck in Miami until tomorrow afternoon ... WTF i miss my family," said another who identified herself an Amanda Mikhail of Providence, R.I.

On the ground
Amtrak suspended service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., and commuter trains in Connecticut and New York were delayed or suspended because of downed trees and signal problems.

The conditions in the Northeast also sparked ground delays in other airports around the country where northeast-bound flights originated.

Saturday is the lightest day for travel, Delta Airlines spokesman Eric Torbenson told NBC News. Delta canceled 56 flights, but they were not necessarily all weather-related.

United, Continental and other airlines issued statements that customers whose flight plans may be disrupted by severe weather affecting the New York area through Sunday could change flight dates without extra fees.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy asked drivers to stay off the roads and banned non-emergency vehicles on the Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways due to dangerous driving conditions, NBC station WVIT reported.

Several Connecticut cities and towns also asked drivers to stay off the roads as snow caused slick driving conditions.

Metro-North trains suspended service due to slippery rail conditions, power problems and downed trees and Peter Pan bus lines has canceled service after 6 p.m. north of New York for Saturday.

"The storm is causing treacherous driving conditions down along the Merritt Parkway particularly, as well as on roadways across the state," Malloy said. "People should stay inside at this point, we are seeing heavy snow start to impact power as well as driving."

"Numerous trees, down wires down. Stay off the roads," tweeted Danbury, Conn., Mayor Mark Boughton.

Elizabeth Chuck and Jim Gold of msnbc.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: October snow blankets Northeast

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