NEW YORK — Hundreds of airline passengers were stranded for up to 10 hours on the tarmac at overworked Kennedy Airport. Ambulances struggled to get patients through unplowed streets. City buses sat abandoned in the snow.
The Christmas weekend blizzard proved to be the curse that keeps on giving Tuesday, as confusion and frustration snowballed in New York and the rest of the country.
Officials warned it could take until New Year's to rebook all passengers and straighten out the transportation mess created by the storm, which shut down all three of New York's major airports for 24 hours and caused a ripple effect across the U.S.
A high school band from Pennsylvania faced the prospect of marching in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Calif., with only half its musicians after the storm stranded the rest in Philadelphia. European tourists who planned to fly into New York found themselves in Chicago when their flights were diverted. Travelers as far away as San Francisco were marooned, even though they were headed nowhere near the Northeast.
New York's airports struggled to get planes in and out. But some jetliners couldn't even get to the gate.
At Kennedy, a British Airways plane from London carrying 300 passengers waited five hours for an open gate, and then two more hours for customs to open, said John Lampl, a spokesman for the airline. A Cathay Pacific flight that had been diverted to Toronto spent 10 hours on the tarmac, and a second Cathay Pacific plane with 250 people sat on the runway for about eight hours Tuesday.
Airlines were dispatching planes to the airport without lining up gate space first, causing backups on the ground, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy.
The chaos was also reflected in New York's streets, where hundreds of abandoned city buses and dozens of ambulances still sat in the middle of snowdrifts from the storm, which clobbered the city with up to 2 feet of snow.
Officials predicted streets would not be clear until today, a day later than they first promised.
More than 5,000 flights had been canceled since Sunday night at all three New York-area airports, about 1,000 of them on Tuesday alone.