Flights canceled after snowstorm hits borough

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More than eight inches of snow fell across Queens Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, causing flight cancellations at the borough’s airports, minor delays on the Long Island Rail Road as well as bus routes and rough rides on city highways.

According to the National Weather Service, about 8.7 inches of snow fell at LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst while 6.2 inches piled up at Kennedy Airport in Jamaica.

According to the National Weather Service, 8 inches of snow on the ground were recorded in Fresh Meadows, while Ridgewood received 6.5 inches of the fluffy white stuff.

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, more than 2,500 sanitation workers were scheduled to work 12-hour shifts to clean up and salt streets in the borough as well as the rest of the city, a Department of Sanitation spokesman said.

“The department will be on snow operations for the entire day,” Keith Mellis, a spokesman for the city agency, said. “We have our salt spread out and more than 2,000 pieces of equipment doing their jobs.”

The snow started to fall about 6 p.m. Tuesday night and quickly transformed the borough’s busy blacktop streets into slow-moving white roadways. All was quiet along Northern Boulevard in Bayside and on other nearby streets, such as Bell Boulevard, as the snowstorm gained strength during the course of the night.

For borough travelers, the snow caused some flight cancellations at the borough’s two airports. As of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was reporting that 49 flights had been canceled at Kennedy Airport while an additional 319 flights were scrapped at LaGuardia.

“The Port Authority has mobilized key personnel at its airports, bridges, tunnels and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Rail System to minimize the inconvenience to the traveling public and help them get to their destinations safely,” according to an official statement on the state agency’s public information line.

By Wednesday morning, however, there were no reported delays for passengers at either of the airports following the round of cancellations, according to the Port Authority.

Hotels around the airports handled a portion of those passengers stranded after airlines canceled regularly scheduled flights.

Zb Moham, manager of the Radisson Hotel at JFK in Jamaica, said 90 percent of the facility’s 386 rooms were full. He said in the past the hotel had accommodated more stranded passengers, but recently airlines have started canceling flights earlier to avoid costs of paying for hotel rooms.

An operator at the Holiday Inn at JFK Airport said the hotel was fully booked.

“We did do 100 percent,” she said. “We have a skeleton crew here now.”

Trains on the Long Island Rail Road lines were experiencing 15-20 minute delays Wednesday morning as a result of the heavy snow. Several conductors aboard the trains said they were not making regularly scheduled stops and were traveling at lower speeds to avoid mechanical failures.

Borough buses were running on normal schedules with some minor delays Wednesday morning.

And to the delight of schoolchildren in Queens, all public schools canceled classes for Wednesday. It was unclear Wednesday morning whether they would reopen for normal session on Thursday.

Drivers along the Long Island Expressway and Grand Central Parkway did not experience major delays as the snow stopped Wednesday morning and no major weather-related accidents had been reported along other busy transport routes.

The TimesLedger staff contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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