Snowstorms effect: New Year plans take a hit (Roundup)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WASHINGTON/LONDON/MOSCOW - Snowstorms in the US and Russia played spoil sport for those planning to travel ahead of the New Year as major airports like the ones in New York and Moscow shut down, forcing the stranded passengers to spend chilly nights anxiously waiting for the weather to clear.

Two major cities — New York and Moscow — continue to face the nature’s fury, while in Britain the situation has improved over the past few days.

In New York City that was hit by a major blizzard Sunday, air and road traffic was affected badly even as the residents were upset with the city’s clean-up effort.

Authorities were doing all they could to clear streets of snow and abandoned vehicles, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday as he appealed to the residents to “be patient”.

Bloomberg said the blizzard clean-up across the city continues — assuring the residents that the sanitation department is “working long and hard” to plow streets in the outer boroughs, the New York Post reported.

“It’s a bad situation,” he said during a news conference in Brooklyn, one of the hardest hit parts of the city.

Bloomberg defended the city’s response and called on the residents to “be patient” — trying to reassure them, especially those in the outer boroughs, that plows will clear streets over the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the people in the city braved the snow for a second straight day as commuters attempted to go to work following Sunday’s big blizzard.

While the city was still digging out of the paralysing snow, delays continued to plague buses and subways as more people attempted to get to work.

New York’s three regional airports opened for business again after the storm dumped more than 50 cm of snow on the region and shut down transport.

Aviation authorities said that flights were delayed at John F. Kennedy, Laguardia and Newark airports. The major Boston airport was also opened again.

More than 6,000 flights were cancelled during the 24-hour blizzard. Wind gusts of more than 110 km per hour continued to play havoc with snow-clearing efforts.

In Russia, hundreds of travellers were stranded at Moscow airports following an ice storm.

Russian carrier Aeroflot said the passengers will be taken to their destinations Wednesday.

“For today we were tasked with flying all our stranded passengers,” a spokesman said without giving the exact number of flights scheduled.

Aeroflot earlier announced the cancellation of 46 flights — both domestic and international — scheduled for Wednesday, the Ria Novosti reported.

Moscow’s largest airport, Domodedovo, announced that all passengers waiting for their flights since the weekend have departed, but hundreds of passengers from 17 flights scheduled for Tuesday remain stranded.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at Moscow airports following an ice storm that hit the entire territory of Central Russia over the weekend. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled and delayed as severe freezing rain caused serious power outages. Some 20,000 passengers have been affected by the weather.

In Britain, forecasters said the country is set to witness a cold - but normal - start to the new year as the worst of winter is over.

After nearly a month of sub-zero temperatures and repeated snowfalls, the southern part of the country Tuesday reached a thawing 11 degrees Celsius. Over the next few days maximum daytime temperatures will hover between 5 degrees and 8 degrees, the Daily Express reported Wednesday.

And though temperatures may dip at the weekend, they will not plunge to the depths of recent weeks when -18.2 degrees was recorded on Christmas Day.

On New Year’s Eve, when thousands will attend open-air celebrations, temperatures should be about 0-3 degrees Celsius, with the coldest spots in the North.

Met office forecaster Michael Lawrence said: “From now on this winter, the weather will generally be fairly benign and we are looking to get back to near normal temperatures.”

Airports across Europe struggled to help thousands of stranded passengers after severe weather paralysed the continent’s transport network before Christmas. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice had grounded flights and disrupted plans of holiday makers going home for Christmas.

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