- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2001

A late-winter snowstorm grounded thousands of flights in the Northeast yesterday, but advance warning from airlines left most Washington-area passengers unscathed.

The snowstorm, predicted to pile up as much as 3 feet of snow along the northern East Coast, grazed Washington with less than an inch.

Amtrak was running on schedule, but several states closed their roads.

Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Washington Airports Authority, said most airlines at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports operated on schedule, although most flights to New York and Boston were canceled. Baltimore-Washington International Airport also reported flight cancellations to cities such as New York; Newark, N.J.; Providence, R.I.; and Toronto.

"For the most part, if there's any trend it's to the Northeast, in terms of weather-related problems," Miss Hamilton said.

Winter storm warnings were issued from West Virginia to Maine, millions of children were given the day off school and some government offices and businesses were closed as a nor'easter covered the region with snow and ice Monday morning.

The storm piled a foot of snow on parts of upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania by yesterday afternoon. Accumulations of 3 feet were possible by early tomorrow from upstate New York into western Massachusetts and parts of New Hampshire. Lighter snow fell elsewhere along the coast, with freezing rain and sleet.

The Federal Aviation Administration said more than 2,000 flights were canceled among all passenger airlines yesterday, with more possible today. News of weather delays caused many would-be airline passengers to stay home or find other transportation.

The normally bustling Reagan National Airport terminals had noticeably fewer people walking through them yesterday.

"It's predominantly a result of the business passengers, who normally would be taking the shuttles to New York or Boston," Miss Hamilton said.

On most weekdays, at least one shuttle flight from US Airways, Delta Air Lines or American Airlines leaves every half-hour. Because of the weather predictions, the airlines telephoned passengers with reservations Sunday night to tell them their flights were canceled. Airlines also posted the cancellations on their Web sites.

"That helped us to reduce congestion at the airports," said US Airways spokesman Dave Castelveter.

Whitney Staley, spokesman for United Airlines, agreed that planning by the airlines and notifications about delays and cancellations minimized problems.

"We've been very proactive," Miss Staley said. "We've canceled 185 flights today due to the storm."

Mr. Castelveter said, "Washington's in very good shape with the exception of flights going to destinations in the Northeast. If you're leaving from Washington going to LaGuardia or Boston or places like that, you'll see flights delayed or canceled into tomorrow."

US Airways canceled 150 flights along the Eastern seaboard yesterday.

Other cities with flights canceled from Reagan National and Dulles airports included Manchester, N.H.; Newark; Portland, Maine; Providence; Syracuse, N.Y.; Toronto; and White Plains, N.Y.

Major airlines like United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways canceled most flights out of New York's LaGuardia Airport and JFK International Airport.

About 125 of Philadelphia's 650 departing flights were canceled because of the storm, which left planes and runways slick with ice, airport spokesman Mark Pesce said.

About 200 flights at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports were canceled as well, airport spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Early Monday, more than half of 700 scheduled flights to Logan Airport in Boston had been canceled. But by noon the runways were clean and the airport showed no signs of closing.

Marion Thompson, a US Airways passenger delayed at Reagan National on a return to Burlington, Vt., said any inconvenience she and her husband suffered was "bearable." The airline gave each of them credit for two free flights to compensate them for a 5*-hour delay when the airplane coming from Pittsburgh to take them home was waylaid by snow.

"We've been pretty well taken care of," Mrs. Thompson said.

Travelers to cities away from the Northeast moved through check-in faster than usual because clerks had fewer customers to tend to.

"I lucked out going south," said Wendy Purtle, a D.C. resident traveling to Charlotte, N.C., on business.

While a check-in clerk announced cancellations to Boston and New York, Miss Purtle moved quickly through a line with about a dozen passengers carrying baggage.

Others weren't so lucky. "I've been here so long it seems like years," said Joshua McKinley, 21. The University of Georgia student, en route to Chicago, said he had been stuck at LaGuardia for 18 hours.

For Amtrak, the snowstorm represented a trial by fire for its Acela Express nonstop service to New York City from Washington. The national passenger railroad has been operating the 150 mph Acela trains since December, but with stops in major cities along the way. Yesterday was the first day for the nonstop service.

"The train left Washington at 6:50 a.m. and arrived in New York just 10 minutes late at 9:28 a.m.," said Amtrak spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings.

For other trains along the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston, the snowstorm's disruptions were minor.

"We generally operate 130 trains on the Northeast Corridor," Miss Cummings said. "Today we operated 128, so we're looking good. We picked up a lot of customers from BWI, Philadelphia International and LaGuardia."

The only significant problem was a downed power line north of Newark that caused two train cancellations.

AAA warned motorists to check weather conditions before driving to cities with snowy weather.

"If I were taking a trip right now, I think I might do a Web search and check with state police," said Lon Anderson, Mid-Atlantic AAA spokesman.

The travel information Web site SmarTraveler.com listed only sporadic delays on major roadways in the Washington area yesterday. Further north, it warned of high winds on the New Jersey Turnpike and severe weather in the Boston area.

The New York Mercantile Exchange closed early, at 1 p.m. yesterday. New Jersey and Connecticut closed all state offices. Massachusetts asked all nonessential state employees to stay home. Connecticut closed major highways to tractor-trailers, state police said.

Major East Coast cities were taking precautions for today, canceling schools for a second day, ordering nonessential workers home, stockpiling salt and strategically placing plows.

The storm was produced by a cold high-pressure system moving south from the Great Lakes and a wet low-pressure system moving north from the Gulf of Mexico. The National Weather Service warned of coastal flooding as the snow and ice continues today.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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