Three of the nation's busiest airports all but shut down, more than 1,400 flights were canceled and the nation's largest commuter rail system suspended services Sunday as a blizzard churned across New York City and Long Island.
Officials throughout the metropolitan area were predicting a treacherous commute Monday morning, and many more flights were expected to be canceled.
"Fortunately, this is a week that many people take off from work anyway, so there should be fewer people commuting," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.
More than 2,400 sanitation department workers were expected to report to work in the evening as the city battled the storm.
The National Weather Service said late Sunday that the storm had met the criteria for a blizzard in New York City and on Long Island. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.
Matt Scalora, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the blizzard would be remembered for gusting winds greater than 60 mph.
"It doesn't happen too often," he said.
Just before midnight, more than a foot of snow had blanketed some areas of New York -- including in Brooklyn, where 18 inches were recorded in Sheepshead Bay.
Forecasters said they expected 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times in the city, and up to 20 inches on Long Island.
The storm created havoc for the metropolitan region's public transit systems.
The Long Island Rail Road suspended service systemwide at least until Monday morning, and subways and buses in New York City were experiencing delays.
The New York State Thruway Authority began prohibiting all commercial vehicles on the Tappan Zee Bridge because of high winds at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
The agency said it had recorded winds gusting up to 64 mph. Passenger cars were unaffected.
The bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting Rockland and Westchester counties north of New York City.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokeswoman Sara Beth Joren said in an e-mail Sunday that the airports remained open, but that all operations had been suspended.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said more than 530 flights were canceled at John F. Kennedy International Airport, nearly 510 at Newark and 400 at LaGuardia.
Even with the weather, shoppers were out in Manhattan, packing Macy's flagship store in Herald Square.
Italian tourist Efisio Marci, who was traveling with Tiziana Demar, said they had gone to the store to do some shopping, but were soon ready to leave -- though not because of the weather.
"There's too many people. We'll come back tomorrow," said Marci.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Blizzard Closes Airports, Travelers Stranded
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