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Blizzard strands travelers up and down East Coast

NEW YORK - Sunday's storm made travel torturous throughout the Northeast, dumping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train, and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.

NEW YORK - Sunday's storm made travel torturous throughout the Northeast, dumping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train, and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.

Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City into Monday, predicting up to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that would reduce visibility to near zero at times. A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow.

More than 1,400 flights had been canceled out of the New York City area's three major airports, and more cancellations were expected Monday.

Amtrak canceled train service between Boston and New York City shortly after 5 p.m., and crews were working through the night to clear the tracks. Trains also were canceled between Boston and Portland, Maine, and between Richmond and Newport News, Va.

For many people, however, the storm's timing was perfect: the day after Christmas, a Sunday, no school for at least a week.

"Love snowy days when I don't have to go anywhere. Staying in - just me and my cozy new socks," author Neesha Meminger wrote on Twitter from her home in the Bronx, N.Y.

She said she could savor the moment because her children, ages 6 and 9, were on holiday break. "If this was during the school week, I would be cursing," she wrote.

Colleen and Graham James of Montclair, N.J., represented the other side of the coin. They were at Newark Liberty International Airport with their two young children and their dachshund, trying to reach family in Iowa, but their connecting flight to Chicago was delayed more than 21/2 hours.

"We left the day after Christmas to avoid the Christmas craze. I guess that didn't work out so well," Colleen James said.

Beyond Philadelphia, airlines canceled flights throughout the Northeast and at airports in Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, and the Carolinas. They expected more cancellations Monday but were trying to rebook passengers and hoped to resume normal operations Tuesday.

New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was calm, apparently because many would-be travelers elected not to trudge to the terminal, in hopes of getting rebooked.

Bus companies canceled trips up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers.

Kate Lindquist, on her way home from New Hampshire to New York City, was greeted with a handwritten sign at a Boston bus station: "Sorry, we are closed today."

"To have this happen on a Sunday during a holiday weekend is incredibly frustrating," she wrote by e-mail.

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino declared a snow emergency that banned parking on all major streets, and the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot-tall penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.

More than 2,400 sanitation workers were working in 12-hour shifts to clear New York City's 6,000 miles of streets.

In Rhode Island, emergency officials encouraged businesses to let employees report to work late Monday, saying road conditions for the early-morning commute Monday would be treacherous.

The weather deterred some people from hitting day-after-Christmas sales, but that appeared to be a relatively light blow for retailers coming off a strong shopping season.

"People will just wait a day to do exchanges and use their gift cards. It's no big deal," said Greg Maloney, chief executive of the retail practice of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages malls across the country.

The storm defied forecasts and largely bypassed Washington, leaving the National Mall with only a light dusting.

Walking with their family toward the Washington Monument, twins Daniel and Gabriel Concha, 10, of Aventura, Fla., said they were disappointed they did not get to see snow on their trip. Weather-hardened Northerners and Midwesterners, meanwhile, expressed amusement with all the hubbub over a few flurries.

Travel miseries began a day earlier in parts of the South, which had a white Christmas for the record books.

Columbia, S.C., had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch - the first measurable snow accumulation on Christmas since the 1880s. About a foot of snow fell in Norfolk, Va., the most there since a February 1989 storm dumped nearly 15 inches.

Utilities in the Carolinas said more than 100,000 people lost power. Service had been restored to about a third of them by midday Sunday.

In Canada, Bloomberg News reported, a blizzard warning was issued for northeast New Brunswick and for heavy snow or rain Monday in the rest of the Maritime provinces.

Ice Cuts Power at Moscow Airport

Icy rain shut down Moscow's largest airport Sunday for nearly 15 hours, coated roads with ice, and left more than 300,000 people and 14 hospitals without electricity in winter.

The rain struck Moscow Saturday night. Workers scrambled to restore the power supply after heavy ice snapped power lines, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Moscow's Domodedovo airport closed Sunday morning after it lost power. No planes were allowed to land or take off for 15 hours until the airport opened for outbound flights to several domestic destinations. The airport had not yet had its full power supply restored.

Moscow's two other major airports, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo, had severe delays.

- Bloomberg News