US winter storm causes travel headaches at NY airport

AFP , Saturday 6 Jan 2018

John F. Kennedy International Airport
Staff work on the John F. Kennedy International Airport apron during a snow storm, in Queens, New York, U.S. in this still image taken from a January 4, 2018 social media video (Photo: Reuters)

A deadly winter storm that walloped a large swath of the United States wreaked havoc Saturday at several airports, with passengers arriving in New York complaining of being stranded on the tarmac for hours.

A "bomb cyclone" that raked the northeastern part of the country with heavy snowfall, glacial temperatures and high winds had forced the cancellation earlier in the week of thousands of flights, and caused thousands more delays.

Although flights had resumed at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, passengers on Air China 989 from Beijing were forced to wait seven hours to deplane, flight tracking site Flightradar24 tweeted.

"But there are more new flights that landed at JFK this morning, parked with passengers waiting to deplane," the website said.

A passenger with the Twitter handle @jennimonet said in a post: "Free at last! After a 14-hour flight from Beijing, and another 7-hours stranded on the @JKFairport TarMac, passengers aboard @airchina Flight #CA989 are deplaning. The next concern is lengthy customs lines. Our flight was just one of many that landed, but without a gate assigned."

Late Friday, a passenger with the Twitter name @thechrismendez said: "Been stuck on tarmac for over 3 hours at JFK Alitalia flight 8604. Multiple passengers seeking medical attention. Staff not communicating. Babies literally crying from hunger and people calling police from the plane."

Two flights headed to New York -- OS87 from Vienna and LH400 from Frankfurt -- had to turn back due to the "current capacity limit at JFK," Flightradar24 said.

In addition to irate passengers, jets from China Southern Airlines and Kuwait Airways clipped each other near JFK's Terminal Four amid the chaos, local media reported.

No one was hurt but both planes were damaged and pulled from service.

The airport in Charleston, South Carolina, unequipped to deal with the five inches (12.7 centimeters) of snow and ice it received, saw 64 percent of its outgoing flights cancelled Saturday, FlightAware said.

The extreme storm saw wind chill warnings in parts of the Midwest and northeastern US, with authorities warning that the frigid blasts of air could feel as cold as minus 45 Fahrenheit (minus 43 Celsius), with risk of frostbite to exposed skin within 10 minutes.

At least 19 people in states from Texas to Wisconsin have died due to the severe weather, US media reported.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire recorded the second-coldest temperature on earth early Saturday, minus 36 Fahrenheit.

The temperature in New York on Saturday was hovering around 14 Fahrenheit, with the Hudson River that runs along the west side of Manhattan partially frozen.

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