Airlines and travelers will continue grappling with the effects of delayed and canceled flights Monday as a storm system along the East Coast showed no mercy for passengers traveling over the holiday weekend.
As of Monday morning, the three major New York-area airports -- Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy -- remained closed, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Newark was scheduled to reopen at noon ET, LaGuardia at 2 p.m. ET and JFK at 4 p.m. ET Monday.
American Airlines canceled 171 Monday flights in and out of major airports from Washington through Boston, airline spokeswoman Mary Sanderson said Sunday night. Those cancellations follow more than 262 flights that the airline canceled Sunday.
On Sunday night, air traffic in and out the three major airports in the New York area came to a halt.
Eric Schorr, a passenger aboard El Al Flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv, said the plane was supposed to take off from John F. Kennedy Airport at 6 p.m. But six hours later, he was still sitting on the tarmac -- with no end in sight.
"What happened was they boarded us, de-iced us, taxied us ... We were ready to take off, but JFK closed when we were finally able to take off," Schorr said early Monday morning.
He said passengers have been told they were not able to go back to the terminal because the airport had cut off official movement and taxiing services on the runway. About 3 a.m. ET Monday, Schorr said the plane was back at a gate, and passengers were deplaning.
Jason Cochran, who was scheduled to fly from JFK Airport to London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday evening, said he spent several hours on a plane that was "pretty sweltering" because the air conditioning was turned off for much of the time. In addition, Cochran said, one of the lavatories wasn't working.
He said the mood aboard the plane was "pretty tense. People felt like they (had) no control over the situation."
After passengers were allowed to get off the plane, Cochran said he ended up sleeping between a vending machine and a vacuum cleaner at a JFK terminal.
The New York-area airports, like many others throughout the Northeast, had gone largely quiet by Sunday evening. Many would-be travelers avoided the airports, thanks in part to many airlines' pre-emptive cancellations.
The steady snow falling from Virginia up the East Coast on Sunday evening also affected travel on the roads and the rails.
Amtrak stopped service Sunday between New York and Portland, Maine, as well as between Newport News and Richmond, Virginia. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said service would continue between New York and Washington, adding that he's "very hopeful that we'll be able to get folks between Boston and New York" starting Monday morning.
Governors declared states of emergency in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts on Sunday ahead of the approaching storm, a bid to get crews ready and expedite recovery funding depending on its impact.
The mayors of Philadelphia; Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Portland, Maine, also called snow emergencies, while New York City launched a winter snow storm operation and encouraged people to stay off the roads by taking mass transit or staying put.
"Unfortunately, our city is directly in the path," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday afternoon, amid a blizzard warning that extends until 6 p.m. Monday. "It's hard to stand up in a 55-mph wind, so this really is dangerous."
The storm's timing over a holiday weekend was fortuitous for some and disastrous for others. City and state officials predicted that the blizzard's impact on the economy might be muted because many people had the holiday weekend off and fewer were expected to be commuting into work than normal on Monday.
"With the people who are staying home for the holidays, it's great, but we know a lot of people who are trying to get home," said Brett Martin. He said his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, had received almost a foot of snow. "We're just playing games and hanging out by the fire."
Snow began falling in parts of the South on Christmas, where winter weather advisories expired Sunday evening in parts of Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
But the storm system was expected to have a larger impact further north up the East Coast into Monday.
Along with the advisory for suburban New York City, blizzard warnings are in effect for Virginia and Maryland's Eastern Shore through Monday morning, with the National Weather Service predicting an eventual pile of snow of up to 15 inches. The New Jersey shore's warning runs through 1 p.m. Monday.
"It does appear like the worst weather will be in the vicinity of the New York City area northeastward into the Boston area," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Oravec. "We do expect the winds to pick up."
Metropolitan New York could see between 15 and 20 inches of accumulating snow, with sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph and sporadically stronger gusts, especially along Long Island, the weather agency predicts.
The Connecticut coast, Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, coastal New Hampshire and Maine also have a blizzard warning in effect through Monday evening, with expected snowfall of 12 to 16 inches and wind gusts reaching 60 mph.
Meanwhile, the NFL announced that a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles -- originally scheduled for Sunday night -- had been postponed until 8:20 p.m. Tuesday.
"It was dangerous for the players, dangerous for the fans," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who called a state of emergency in anticipation of up to 14 inches of snow. "People still have to get out of the parking lot (and get in) their cars."
Nancy White, a spokeswoman for AAA, said 93 million Americans were expected to travel between Christmas and New Year's Day -- with nine out of 10 of them doing so by car.
While the worst wasn't expected until early Monday, the Massachusetts State Police reported around 7:30 p.m. Sunday that heavy snow was already falling, including whiteout conditions in some areas. That contributed to traffic moving at a crawl in and around the Boston area, with state troopers reporting minor crashes and spinouts.
The state's governor, Deval Patrick, told reporters earlier in the day that 1,000 plows, sand and salt trucks were working to keep state roads clear and that as many as 4,000 would be deployed as the storm worsens. He also warned of possible overnight flooding along Massachusetts Bay.
"We expect visibility to be very low and travel to be extremely dangerous," Patrick said.
While specific information varies by carrier, several airlines are offering penalty waivers for passengers scheduled to travel on Monday from certain areas but have to reschedule their trips. Affected customers are urged to contact their airlines either by phone or online.