NEW YORK (AP) – Air travel was largely shut down across the East Coast by Sunday’s fierce snowstorm, marooning thousands of travelers at airports, and road crews struggled to keep up with drifting snow.

“It’s going to be a menace trying to clean it up,” said Mayor Scott T. Rumana in Wayne, N.J.

However, the storm’s arrival during the weekend meant more people were able to stay at home instead of trying to drive to work.

All three New York-area airports were closed as airlines canceled upward of 500 inbound and departing flights – 200 each at LaGuardia and Newark, and 120 at Kennedy, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.

“This is the first time Newark Liberty was closed since Sept. 11, 2001,” PA spokesman Pasquale DiFulco said.

While some hopeful travelers did show up at LaGuardia, “most people exercised common sense and stayed home,” DiFulco said.

Delta Air Lines canceled arrivals and departures at Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn.

The airport closures and grounded planes marooned travelers elsewhere across the country. About 7,500 people were stranded just at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, spokesman Steve Belleme said.

“We’ve been playing cards for two hours. We expect to play a lot more cards,” Cliff Jefferson said about nine hours into his stay at the Miami airport.

After their return flight to Massachusetts was canceled, he and a colleague planned to spend the night at the airport because there were no vacant hotel rooms in the area.

More 80 flights had been canceled at Miami International by afternoon. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood had about 46 canceled outbound flights, Belleme said, and about 40 flights from Orlando International Airport were canceled.

The Long Island Rail Road, the commuter service serving points east of New York, shut down at Manhattan’s Penn Station. Commuter rail service north of New York was curtailed, but city subways and other surface transport operated normally or intermittently as crews worked to clear 6,300 miles of streets and roads.

In some places, drifting snow buried electrified third rails and other equipment so quickly that work crews could not keep up. Amtrak reported a few cancelations and delays in the Northeast Corridor but said most trains remained in service.

New Jersey Transit suspended all bus service statewide, and officials lowered the speed limit on the busy New Jersey Turnpike to 35 mph.

Associated Press writers Randall Chase in Dover, Del.; Jessica Gresko in Miami; Wiley Hall in Columbia, Md.; Brandie M. Jefferson in Boston; Bruce Shipkowsi in Trenton, N.J.; and Matthew Verrinder in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.


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