Winter snowstorm barrels down on New York City area; JFK, LaGuardia Airports see cancellations By Erin Durkin, Erin Einhorn and Helen Kennedy

Dec 26, 2010

The Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010 that is expected to paralyze most of the East Coast howled into New York Sunday, crippling holiday travel.

Picturesque morning flurries turned to heavier, driving snow as the day went on.

The National Weather Service forecasts 15 to 20 inches will have fallen by Monday, with more than 24 inches in some places, and sharp wind gusts forming even deeper drifts.

States of emergency were declared from North Carolina to Massachusetts and airports up and down the Eastern Seaboard were considering shutting down.

More than 1,000 flights in and out of New York were canceled alone.

"Those totals will likely rise," said Port Authority spokeswoman Sarah Joren, who encouraged travelers to check if their flight has been canceled before heading to the airport.

Barbara Skenderis, 38, of Oceanside, L.I., was one of the lucky ones who was getting out before the storm's wrath struck.

She was waiting for a 12:30 p.m. flight from John F. Kennedy Airport to Disney World in Florida with her husband and three young children.

"So far, so good. We're getting out before the real storm," said. "Besides three kids, it's fine."

By definition, a blizzard is a heavy snowstorm with wind gusts over 35 mph. This storm is packing sustained 35 mph winds and gusts of up to 60 mph. Eastern Long Island might see even stronger winds.

"There's going to be close to zero visibility," said meteorologist David Stark of the National Weather Service. "Its going to be very hazardous."

Mayor Bloomberg was expected to update New Yorkers Sunday afternoon on the city's preparations.

The city Department of Sanitation canceled all vacations and days off for its crews and brought workers in for 12-hour shifts.

"Mother Nature just started to snow, so we're ready for it," said agency spokesman Keith Mellis.

"We had pre-positioned all 365 salt spreaders throughout the boroughs. They are our first line of defense," Mellis said.

Crews started salting roads in some boroughs just before noon, starting in Staten Island, and moving through Brooklyn and Manhattan.

"Once we get two inches or more, the spreaders will drop their plows," Mellis said.

They have another 1,600 plows ready to hit the streets.

Appropriately, the hold music at the Sanitation Department's press office was "Let It Snow."

In Philadelphia, the blizzard forced the cancelation of tonight's Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings game. It was rescheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Aside from making it miserable to get in or out of town, the big storm threatened to bury the after-Christmas shopping sales.

The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year as folks return unwanted gifts and hunt for bargains.

The blizzard could keep shoppers home in droves, and deprive merchants of the capper to what has been a healthy holiday shopping season.

Most city dwellers appeared to be taking the storm in stride.

"We're New Yorkers. We're resilient. I got four pairs of boots," said Mary Christiani, 57, outside the C-Town Supermarket at 116th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.

"I thank God for any type of weather," she said. "I thank God to be alive."



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