Storm blankets Northeast

Christmas commuters stranded

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NEW YORK (AP) | A powerful winter storm lay a snow blanket from the South to the Northeast on Sunday, turning roads slick, stranding thousands of airline, train and bus passengers and putting a chill in retailers’ day-after-Christmas sales.

Up to 20 inches of snow were expected in some areas, including Philadelphia, where the Eagles-VikingsNFL game was postponed two days, and Boston, where an aquarium had to protect - of all things - penguin ice sculptures from the elements.

Snow started falling around New York City late Sunday morning, by which time nearly 1,000 flights out of the region’s three major airports had already been canceled in anticipation of the storm. More cancellations were expected Monday.

“We left the day after Christmas to avoid the Christmas craze. I guess that didn’t work out so well,” said Colleen James of Montclair, N.J. She, her husband, their two young children and their dachshund were at Newark Airport trying to reach family in Iowa, but their connecting flight to Chicago was delayed more than 2 1/2 hours.

Her husband, Graham James, was resigning himself to postponing their trip a month. “Now we’re worried about just driving home because of the crazy snow,” Mr. James said.

Some flights out of Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and the Carolinas also were canceled. Amtrak canceled train service from New York to Maine on Sunday evening, after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia.

Bus companies also canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers.

Kate Lindquist, on her way home from New Hampshire to New York City, was greeted with a handwritten sign at a Boston bus station: “Sorry, we are closed today.”

“To have this happen on a Sunday during a holiday weekend is incredibly frustrating,” she told AP in an e-mail.

The Northeast is getting the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for Sunday and Monday, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times. A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow.

A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.

As much as 18 inches could fall on the New Jersey shore with wind gusts over 40 mph.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency as of 2 p.m. Sunday, and he urged residents to stay off the roads.

The NFL moved the Philadelphia Eagles‘ game against the Minnesota Vikings from Sunday night to Tuesday because of the blizzard. It’s the third time this season snow has forced a change of plans for the Vikings. Two of their games this month needed to be relocated because the roof of their stadium collapsed.

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino declared a snow emergency that bans parking on all major streets, and the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot-tall penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.

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