Groundhog Day arrives as major snowstorm begins in Texas and batters winter-weary New York

It's ugly out there. Yet another blast of snow and sleet Tuesday made getting around town a soggy slog for winter weary New Yorkers. Barely an inch of snow was recorded in Central Park, but before it could become a mantle of white, the storm morphed into a chilly gray noose that strangled the joy out of 65-year-old Linda Marine of Queens. "I'm ready to move to Florida," said Marine, who lives in Howard Beach. "They don't have any snow in Florida." "It's a slushy mess," added James Crawley, 31, of the Bronx. "I'm tired of getting my feet wet. I'm tired of shovelling. And the trains are late all the time." And it's not over yet. And Wednesday is Groundhog Day, so if Chuck and Phil see their shadows, it means six more weeks of winter. "We're going to continue to have freezing rain and sleet for the rest of the day," said meteorologist Lauren Nash of the National Weather Service. And on Wednesday, there'll be more. "Tomorrow is when the heavier freezing and sleet will occur," Nash said. "Our biggest concerns will be the ice accumulations over the area." The city declared a hazardous travel advisory for the storm, but the Sanitation Department said it planned to continue picking up some trash and recycling while it was clearing new snow from the streets. The storm caused havoc at airports. Half the flights at Newark Airport and about a third of the flights out of Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports were cancelled, according to, which tracks commercial flights. So far, 56.9 inches of snow has fallen in New York City this winter. The record for the season is 75.6 inches, set in the winter of 1995-96. Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan, a native of Puerto Rico, wasn't griping about the snow. Before this week, he'd never seen any before. "It's crazy," said Pagan as he strolled on snow-covered Citi Field. "I have played in Iowa, Chicago, Binghamton and New York and I never saw snow before. I had to get myself wet." If Pagan was in Chicago, Continue Reading

Jets, stuck in Chicago due to New York blizzard, didn’t get away from routine after Bears loss

CHICAGO - The Jets didn't deviate too much from their typical Monday routine even though the team was stranded in the Windy City due to the blizzard in the New York/New Jersey area. Players received treatment and reviewed the film from Sunday's 38-34 loss to the Bears during team meetings in the Chicago area team hotel. "We're just pretty much staying in the room, resting and watching movies, room service," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "You know, typical stuff you do when you have nothing to do. (We'll have) meetings just like a normal Monday for us. We would typically meet, go over the film and talk about this week." The Jets, who clinched a playoff berth Sunday by virtue of the Jaguars' loss, initially were scheduled to leave Chicago on the team charter at 5 p.m. EST that day, before the flight was pushed back to 7 p.m. That would have had Rex Ryan's team touching down at Newark Airport at around 10 p.m. - until the airport announced it was closed for arrivals for the remainder of the day. So instead, the Jets departed at 7 p.m. EST Monday night for Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, landing there around 9:40 p.m. and taking buses back to the team's facility in Florham Park. Tuesday is a scheduled off day for players. STILL SOME SWAGGER "Defensively, we just got to get the swagger back," Ryan said. "It's a challenge. I believe we'll get our defense back ... and we're going to be tough." To that end, Ryan will place additional emphasis on fundamentals and technique in practice. The coach said certain basic elements such as proper leverage, getting hands on receivers and assuming a low base were lacking against the Bears. "I think we've slipped the last couple weeks," Ryan said. "We haven't been as good in those areas as we need to be." INJURY UPDATERT Damien Woody (arthroscopic knee surgery) and safety Eric Smith (concussion) may play, according to Ryan. Tomlinson won the Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Player award. Continue Reading

Grounded: Flight delays drop, but not at New York City airports

For the first time in years, flight delays are on the decline nationwide - except in New York, where the problem keeps getting worse.Arrival delays fell 2% nationwide from May 2008 to May 2009, federal Department of Transportation records show. Here, there were 11.5% more delayed arrivals at Kennedy Airport and 5.5% more late arrivals at LaGuardia Airport. Newark Airport showed some improvement - delays were down 2.5% - but it still ranked 30th out of the nation's 31 major airports. Kennedy was 29th, and LaGuardia was 31st. Sen. Chuck Schumer blamed disproportionate cuts in air-traffic control staffing at the three airports and called on the Federal Aviation Administration to immediately boost personnel levels. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also demanded that the FAA begin installing more efficient Global Positioning System-based plane tracking technology already in use in Britain, France - and even Tibet. "We should buy it immediately, and New York should get it first," he said.   Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New York metro airports ranked among worst in nation by Travel & Leisure; Newark in last place

Call it a no fly zone. Metro area airports have been named among the worst in the country. In Travel and Leisure magazine’s annual assessment of airports with the worst track record for on-time performance, NYC's two biggest -- JFK and LaGuardia -- tied for 4th place. Newark scored the number one slot. The mag went to the Bureau of Transportation and gathered statistics on flights that departed more than 15 minutes behind schedule from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. The two city airports, not surprisingly, have some of the busiest skies in the country, causing both to have 24% of flights delayed.  There is a silver lining to these not-so-friendly skies. Even though JFK landed on the worst list, the airport is actually improving its performance: in 2007, 35% of planes were delayed as compared to 26% in 2008. There was also improvement at LaGuardia, where flight delays were down 4 percentage points from 2008.Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a timely flight out of the city, don’t cross state lines. Research flagged New Jersey’s Newark airport with 30% of flights delayed -- the highest rate of any in the nation. Chicago's O'Hare, Miami, Dallas Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Washington's Dulles, Atlanta and Philadelphia rounded out the list of the worst. But travelers, take heart: the best airports list is filled with vacation-friendly cities, including Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa, San Diego and Los Angeles. Airports in Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., took the top two spots. The airline you're flying also makes a difference when it comes to arriving on time, so Travel and Leisure also ranked America's best and worst airlines. Hawaiian took the top spot, with an on-time rate of 92%. Budget-friendly Southwest flew into the #3 spot, while US Airways was tops among the largest carriers at #5. Lingering at the back of the pack were American Airlines and the Delta Connection carrier Comair. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Snow City: Blizzard comes to New York – for real this time – as boroughs become winter wonderland

New York, your snow day has arrived.Predictions for today's storm were so dire that officials canceled school and grounded flights hours before the first flakes even fell, sending the city into emergency mode as the behemoth blizzard inched closer to Gotham."This will probably shut down East Coast cities for the next couple of days," meteorologist Jim Rouiller said Tuesday. "This is definitely going to be one for the record books."The first flakes fell on Central Park on and off starting around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, but the worst of the storm is expected this afternoon.Winds howling at 40 mph or more are expected to create whiteouts and paste the city with at least a foot of snow. The outer boroughs and suburbs could get more."When the winds start to kick up, there's going to be zero visibility," said Andrew Ulrich of AccuWeather. "It's going to be really bad - it looks terrible for the city."The blizzard should stop some time tonight, but the digout could take days, Mayor Bloomberg warned."I urge you to have at home milk, flashlights and anything else you might need if you can't get out and don't have electricity," Bloomberg said.Sanitation workers began 12-hour shifts Tuesday night, preparing 365 salt spreaders and 1,600 plows. Bloomberg said he'll deploy nearly 5,000 workers to clear the streets and get the city back to normal."I'd rather be on the safe side, erring on the side of being safe, than sorry," he said.Bloomberg begged commuters not to drive and instead to rely on the subway, which should run normally in most areas. Buses will be equipped with chains and will run their normal routes unless they absolutely can't.The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad likely will have big delays. Riders are urged to check online for service updates before they leave for a train.Continental Airlines, Newark Liberty International Airport's largest carrier, canceled all of its 400 flights Tuesday night. Earlier, Southwest Airlines announced across the board Continue Reading

Dept. of Transportion unveils plan to reduce congestion at New York airports

WASHINGTON - Slot auctions designed to reduce delays and increase competition are coming to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, the government said Friday. The Transportation Department also said the government and industry must improve procedures for complying with maintenance and safety rules to avoid massive flight cancellations, like those that left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded last month when American Airlines and other carriers had to ground MD-80 jetliners to inspect or redo wiring. Those inspections were supposed to have been completed by March 5. The White House, which demanded action after last summer's record delays, lauded the announcement made just a week before one of the busiest traveling holidays. But the airline industry and some critics said the effort will do little to ease delays. The department last month announced similar slot auctions for New York's LaGuardia Airport that will require carriers to auction off some of their existing slots over the next five years and possibly retire others. In 2007, the three New York-area airports had the lowest on-time arrival rates, and aviation officials say delays there cascade throughout the system. Under the latest proposals from DOT Secretary Mary Peters, all airlines operating at Newark and JFK would be given as many as 20 daily slots for the 10-year life of the rule. Under one option at JFK, 10 percent of the airline's slots above the base amount would be made available via an auction and the proceeds would be invested in congestion and capacity improvements in the region. Or the airlines would auction 20 percent of slots above the baseline and keep all of the proceeds. Depending on the option, up to 179 slots of the airport's 1,245 could be affected, Peters said. The plan also calls for auctioning 10 percent of slots at Newark above the baseline annually for the first five years of the rule, Continue Reading

Newark Airport evacuated, workers treated after possible gas leak

TRENTON, N.J. - A security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport was evacuated Saturday as authorities investigated a possible gas leak, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.Transportation Security Administration workers in the airport’s Terminal B noticed a strong odor around 11 a.m. that they thought smelled like natural gas, Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco said. The checkpoint reopened around 1:30 p.m.Emergency workers treated about a dozen people, fire department spokesman John Brown said.DiFulco said those treated were mostly, if not all, TSA workers, and that two of the TSA workers were taken to a hospital in good condition with nausea and dizziness. The section of the terminal around the checkpoint was evacuated as police and the Newark Fire Department investigated. Some arriving flights were diverted to another part of the terminal.Delays were limited to three outbound flights, DiFulco said.Utility workers weren’t able to detect any natural gas or carbon monoxide in the air, said Robin Rasheed-Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas.The utility still planned to keep workers in the terminal through the afternoon as a precaution, Rasheed-Hernandez said.The cause of the odor was still being investigated. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Health officials issue measles advisories in New York City, Long Island

Health officials issued warnings Tuesday that outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel could be cause for concern in the New York area, a day after Long Island officials said a baby who flew from Tel Aviv to New Jersey with the disease may have exposed thousands. Although most people are vaccinated against measles as children, health officials said anyone who hasn't or who may be at high risk would be offered free shots of immune globulin. Those at high risk include pregnant women and infants under age 1 who may have come in contact with the 8-month-old boy, who arrived at Newark-Liberty Airport from Israel on April 2. The baby, who was not identified, is doing well, health officials said. Officials in Nassau County said Monday they learned the baby apparently had been at the Fortunoff Source Mall in Westbury, as well as in several stores in Cedarhurst, last Thursday between 1 p.m. and midnight, and may have exposed thousands to the disease. On Tuesday, health officials in neighboring Suffolk County on eastern Long Island issued a similar advisory for any of its residents who may have come in contact with the boy. Measles can be spread by coughing, sneezing and through the air, meaning anyone in a room with someone infected can potentially get the disease. It can result in severe complications, including encephalitis, pneumonia, and death. Because the symptoms are so debilitating, those sickened often go to hospital emergency rooms or clinics, where they can infect large numbers of people. Also Tuesday, New York City health officials advised residents traveling abroad, especially to Europe and to Israel, to make sure they are vaccinated against measles. "Vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and others, whether you are traveling to Europe or to a developing country," said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, the Health Department's assistant commissioner for immunization. Ten measles cases have been identified so far in the city Continue Reading

Weather causing New York flight delays

Wind and rain are causing delays of two hours or more at New York’s three major airports.The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting delays averaging two hours and 27 minutes on arrivals at Newark International Airport.Flights headed to La Guardia Airport are experiencing delays averaging two hours and seven minutes. At Kennedy International Airport, the delays are averaging 55 minutes.The FAA advised travelers on Monday to check with their airline about the status of departing flights. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Feds: New York airports have the most flight delays

The city's three hubs are the worst in the country, with more than 40% of incoming flights arriving late between January and August of this year, according to the federal Transportation Department.Almost all the delays were because of weather, air-traffic congestion - or maintenance and crew problems, the department said.Newark Airport had the nation's worst record for on-time arrivals.LaGuardia was second worst, with Kennedy Airport only marginally better."The race to the bottom continues,"said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)."Without a doubt, the skies above New York are more clogged and congested than ever. . . We need concrete action before the holiday travel season revs up yet again," he said.The report showed Kennedy had the worst record in the country for on-time departures, and Newark was almost as bad."It's been like that for more than two years," said Marc Lavorgna, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airports."The Port Authority has put together a task force . . . to look for comprehensive solutions to what is a growing problem." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading