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Snow Storm Clobbers East, Frustrates Travelers

Updated 10:17 p.m. ET

NEW YORK - A winter storm made travel torturous in the Northeast on Sunday, dropping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.

More than a foot of snow was expected in some areas, including New York and Boston, where an aquarium had to protect - of all things - penguin ice sculptures from the elements. A dumping of up to 20 inches had been forecast for Philadelphia, where the Eagles-Vikings NFL game was postponed because of the storm, but by early evening meteorologists said the city would end up getting no more than a foot.

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

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

U.S. Airways had already canceled 110 Monday flights by Sunday afternoon - spokesman Jim Olson said that was to try to keep passengers and crews from getting stranded at airports.

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

Andrew Brent's flight to Florida was repeatedly pushed back, and the New York mayoral spokesman thought he might have to wait until Monday to meet up with his wife and son for vacation. But he added, "I'll get down there eventually so I'm not terribly worried."

Amtrak, meanwhile, canceled train service from New York to Maine on Sunday evening, after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. Bus companies canceled routes 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 told the AP in an e-mail.

The Northeast received the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for Sunday and Monday, with a forecast of 11 inches to 16 inches of snow and strong winds reducing visibility to near zero at times.

New York's Department of Sanitization started calling in its workers on Friday in preparation for the blizzard, Commissioner John Doherty told CBS 2 New York.

"We're going into two 12-hour shifts, and we will be working with 365 salt spreaders and another 1,600 plows and we're going to operate around the clock until we get the storm under control," Doherty said.

As for Monday, Doherty said it will help that schools are closed, but they still have to get roads clear as soon as possible.

Workers will be targeting primary roads where public transportation is used and the roads that emergency vehicles need to get around.

New York travel and weather information:

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NYC Office of Emergency Management

A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts, where 12 inches to 16 inches of snow was expected by the time flurries taper off Monday morning, said William Babcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.

Before any snow actually accumulated in the city, the Philadelphia Eagles' game against the Minnesota Vikings was delayed from Sunday night to Tuesday because of "public safety concerns." Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who does football commentaries after Eagles games, was not amused and said fans could have handled it.

"This is football; football's played in bad weather," Rendell told KYW-TV. "I, for one, was looking forward to sitting in the stands throughout the snow and seeing an old-time football game."

In Boston, the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.

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, CEO of the retail practice of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages malls across the country.

The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast and strengthened as it moved northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, which was hit with a white Christmas for the record books.

Columbia, South Carolina, had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow - the first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since the 1880s. About 12 inches of snow fell in Norfolk, Virginia, the most seen there since a February 1989 storm dumped nearly 15 inches.

Utility companies in the Carolinas said more than 100,000 people lost power because of the storm, and only about a third had service restored by midday Sunday.

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