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Massive storm causes travelers' nightmares

Winter storm affects at least 5K flights and train service

MIAMI – A massive winter storm affecting the East Coast on Thursday ruined flight plans for thousands of travelers, as it dumped as much as 18 inches of snow from the Carolinas to Maine.

The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported at least 5,000 canceled flights across the United States. There were some 90 cancellations out of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and some 85 more out of the Miami International Airport. 

Joe Ferraro was angry. He checked the status of his American Airlines flight several times Thursday and nothing changed all day. 

"What are they going to do for me? Where is American Airlines? $200 a night for a hotel," Ferraro said. "Am I supposed to let kids and my fiancee sleep on the floor?"

Hurricane-force winds and flooding halted transportation systems. Amtrak planned to operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston on Thursday. Northeast Regional Service between Washington, D.C., and Newport News/Norfolk, Virginia, was canceled for Thursday.

"We had a good vacation and I am trying to get back, but mother nature is going to do what she is going to do, and we will get back when we get back," said Ashton Moore, whose children were also waiting on the floor. 

Driving was dangerous. Three people were killed in North Carolina after their vehicles ran off snow-covered roads, authorities said. Another person died near Philadelphia when a car could not stop at the bottom of a steep, snow-covered hill and slammed into a commuter train.

The massive storm began two days ago in the Gulf of Mexico and first struck the Florida Panhandle. Some meteorologists described it as a “bomb cyclone” for the process of bombogensis, when the barometric pressure drops steeply in a short period.

It was so cold in South Florida that iguanas fell from their perches in trees in suburban Miami. The reptiles became immobile when temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Travelers will be stranded this weekend. National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson said record low temperatures were predicted for 28 major cities across New England, eastern New York and the mid-Atlantic states by dawn Sunday.

Airports operational details:

Washington, D.C (DCA): Normal operations.
 
Philadelphia, Penn. (PHL): Normal operations.
 
New York City-area airports: 
 
•    Newark (EWR): Operations will resume at 9:30 a.m. ET.
•    John F. Kennedy (JFK): Operations will resume at 11:30 a.m. ET.
•    LaGuardia (LGA): Operations will resume at 10 a.m. ET.
 
Long Island, N.Y. (ISP): All departures/arrivals canceled on Jan. 5. American plans to resume service Saturday, Jan. 6.
 
Hartford, Conn. (BDL): Operations will resume at 9:15 a.m. ET.
 
Providence, R.I. (PVD): Operations will resume at 1:45 p.m. ET.
 
Boston, Mass. (BOS): Operations will resume at 10 a.m. ET.