By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Heavy snows in the United States closed roads and canceled nearly 900 flights on what was forecast to be the busiest day of the year for highways and airports, stranding hordes of travelers trying to head home on Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The storm was expected to dump 12 inches (30.48 cm) of snow on the western part of the Boston metro area by Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy snow and freezing rain was forecast overnight across a vast area stretching from the Great Lakes across the Northeast. Blizzards pounded the Great Plains and upper Midwest all day Sunday and heavy rains hit the West Coast.
Flight cancellations and delays mounted through the day, most in airports in San Francisco, Newark, and Boston. At 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, 881 flights were canceled and 7,122 delayed, according to FlightAware.com.
Airlines for America, an industry trade organization, forecast that a record 3.1 million passengers would fly on Sunday, which it said would be the busiest day ever. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is also the busiest day of the year for roadways, according to the American Automobile Association.
All told, some 55 million people tried to take to the air roads, rails and waterways to make it home from their holiday feast.
“This has been a really long-lived and intense storm that effected the entire nation for the past five or six days,” said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. “It’s reforming and taking aim directly at the Northeast.”
Burke said that even a slight shift in the forecasted path of the East Coast storm in the coming hours could mean far more snow for major cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
(The story corrects number of flights canceled in first paragraph; Adds exact number of flights canceled and delayed in fourth paragraph)
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Alistair Bell)