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Hundreds of flights cancelled across US as winter storms cause chaos

A snow plow clears Main St. in Greenville, South Carolina, USA. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled across the US as winter storms battered most of the country on Sunday, putting millions at risk.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the first major storm began on Saturday and brought heavy snow and strong winds to northeastern states and the central Appalachians.

Winter storm warnings and watches were in effect throughout the northeast, and icy roads made for hazardous travel as far south as North Carolina.

The first storm brought snow to New York’s Hudson Valley and sparked blizzard warnings across the Great Plains.

The NWS reported between 15 to 30.5cm of snow blanketed the regions North and west of New York City, Boston and New England.  

The Appalachian mountain range could see as much as one inch (2.5cm) of snow per hour through Monday, while icy conditions could continue to develop through Tuesday, the NWS reported.

A second storm was moving across the western states, sparking winter storm warnings and weather advisories from Arizona to Illinois and a blizzard warning in New Mexico and Colorado.

Together, the two systems had contributed to 692 flight cancellations across the US as of early Jan 7, with Boston, Newark, Seattle, and Chicago hardest hit, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking company.

There is now a Level 3 of 5 enhanced risk on Monday for cities like New Orleans, Louisiana, Gulfport, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama, as storms sweep across the area in the afternoon and overnight. Tornadoes are especially likely in this area. Additionally, there is also a Level 3 of 4 moderate risk of excessive rainfall with 3 to 5 inches expected, which could lead to flooding.

On Tuesday, the same system moves further east, where there is an enhanced risk of severe weather for cities like Tallahassee, Florida, Albany, Georgia, and Panama City, Florida in the early morning and continuing into the afternoon.

Further transportation disruptions were reported by Amtrak.

The passenger-rail carrier canceled some trains to Boston, as well as across the Midwest.

Also, a portion of the busy interstate highway I-95 closed in North Carolina.

By mid-day Sunday, about 235,000 customers had lost power in the southeast, including more than 150,000 in the Carolinas, according to the website PowerOutage.US, though it appeared some were coming back online by the evening.

The first snow of 2024 was greeted with a sense of relief in the United States.

“New England winters should include snow,” Jesse Floyd, 57, of Boxborough, Massachusetts said. “It’s been too long since the last big storm. I can’t wait to get out and do some snowshoeing.”

“I was hoping for more snow,’ Walter Lark, 35, said as he and his son Ira, 3, walked through the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island.

At West Mountain ski center, in Queensbury, New York, co-owner Spencer Montgomery complained that there had not been a spot of snow on lawns the past few weeks and business was down 80 percent during the holidays.

He said the recent snowfall would get people to think about skiing again.

“It’s like running a restaurant and society’s lost their appetite,” Montgomery said. “That’s what the natural snow does. It makes people hungry.”

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