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Travelers still stranded by Northeast storm

December 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The East Coast is slowly thawing out from a massive blizzard that froze post-holiday air travel. While some airports are accepting flights again, many travelers could still be stuck for days.

At Los Angeles International Airport, lines started forming early and the frustration began mounting as more flights to and from New York were canceled Tuesday, adding to an ever-growing number of stranded air travelers.

All three of the New York area's major airports were allowing planes to take off and land. Planes began flying into LaGuardia and JFK airports Monday night. At Newark Liberty, flights started to arrive Tuesday morning.

However, there is a backlog of passengers and flights are booked solid. Experts said it would likely take several days to rebook all the displaced passengers.

"It's chaos from the moment you get off the plane. There's just lines that have no direction and there's no staff telling you where you need to go. Lots of confusion," said Dianne Baccus of Brisbane, Australia.

Travelers whose flights were canceled again Tuesday said they thought things would have been straightened out by now, especially since the snow has stopped falling on the East Coast.

At the Continental Airlines terminal at LAX on Tuesday night, there was jubilation as hundreds of high school musicians from Pennsylvania arrived.

They are members of the Downingtown East High School band, one of only 12 marching bands in the country selected to perform in Saturday's Tournament of Roses Parade.

The 350 band members were bused to Newark on Monday where they were scheduled to catch their flights, but the blizzard conditions caused cancellations and almost shattered the hopes of the students. That was until the airline came through and rebooked them on flights this Tuesday evening.

"It's unbelievable to come to California and perform in front of 40 rows of people," said band member Ashley Brown.

However, patience is running thin among travelers already worn out from days of cancellations.

"Their website has been down. Their phone services don't seem to be answering and now they have two people working with a line of about 100," said Paul Murphy of New York. Murphy and his daughter were waiting for a flight back home since Monday and airlines are saying that might not happen until after the New Year.

The storm was New York City's sixth-worst since record-keeping began in 1869, according to the National Weather Service. The storm dumped 20 inches of snow in New York's Central Park; 29 inches on Staten Island; 32 inches on Rahway, N.J.; 10 inches on Franklin, S.C.; about 12 inches on Philadelphia; and 19 inches in South Boston, according to the NWS.

The airports are so crowded, one traveler at LAX missed her flight to New York that was not canceled. She just couldn't get through the long lines fast enough before her flight took off. She became stranded like so many others.

"We tried to go to every airport and every airport was backed up to New York and standby was 50 people," said Clare Shearer of Santa Barbara.

If you're heading to the airport, you're advised to call ahead to make sure you are not stranded. Flight arrival and departure boards and even airline websites were reportedly not updating consistently.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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