Keep coats handy


Grand Cayman might not have received the 20-plus inches of snow New York did, but the weather system that caused the Northeast’s Boxing Day blizzard was large enough to dip Cayman’s temperatures into the 60s this week.

Cayman Islands National Weather Service Meteorologist Avalon Porter said the cold front associated with the blizzard system pushed through the area on Sunday night. In addition to bringing cloudy skies and rough seas, the front also brought low daily temperatures in the 60s and highs only in the lower 70s.

Mr. Porter said the lowest temperature recorded at the National Weather Service headquarters was 66 degrees on Tuesday, when the high temperature only reached 71 degrees. An automated weather station at Owen Roberts International Airport registered a low temperature of 63.9 degrees early Wednesday morning.

Things should start warming later in the week.

“Temperatures should start getting back up to the lower 80s tomorrow or Friday,” Mr. Porter said on Wednesday.

The respite will be short lived, however. Mr. Porter said a high pressure system will begin affecting the Cayman from Saturday, bringing easterly winds of 15 to 20 knots, rough seas with wave heights of four to six feet, and low temperatures right around 70 degrees. A small craft advisory will be in effect on Saturday through at least Sunday.

The holiday blizzard caused a major disruption with travel in the United States, with nearly 10,000 flights cancelled. This in turn caused some disruption in the vacation plans of tourists coming and going from the Cayman Islands.

Nancy Harrison, marketing coordinator at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman said the storm caused a mixed bag of results at the hotel.

“The storm certainly caused both cancellations and delays in reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman,” she said. “Fortunately, our guests and the airlines have been quite flexible and accommodating and most people have simply delayed their arrival to the Island. In turn, some in-house guests did have to extend their stay which balanced out our occupancy levels, ensuring our standard high level of quality service for our guests over the holiday season.”

Flights resume

Some flights left on time Wednesday at New York-area airports buffeted by a weekend storm, but clusters of stranded passengers were still camped out waiting to go home.

Runways at the area’s three major airports were all open Wednesday morning, officials said, but they cautioned that it might take days for all the passengers who’ve been camping out in terminals to get flights out.

At Kennedy Airport there were sights not seen for days: long lists of “on time” flights, fully staffed information counters, National Guard troops patrolling the terminals and workers pushing long rows of empty luggage carts — previously so scarce and coveted that screaming matches broke out over who would get them.

The massive lines of recent days gave way to snaking, but orderly, single-file check-in queues. Those showing up for Wednesday flights fared much better than those who had been booked on flights earlier in the week; the latter were told they couldn’t travel until after the new year.

Tommy Mokhtari, of Dubai, was desperate to leave the United States on Wednesday, as his three-month tourist visa expired on Sunday. A professional poker player, Mokhtari said he was facing expensive lawyers’ fees to remedy being “out of status” as well as a $600 to $800 penalty to rebook his tickets home to Dubai.

“I waited four hours in the queue just to speak to someone,” he said. “Just to get the news that I have to wait a few more days. They really need to have a backup plan. I will never ever travel again in December, never on American Airlines, and never through New York.”

Most flights at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport were taking off and landing as scheduled Wednesday. Continental Airlines said on its website that its hub there was nearly normal but that some cancellations and delays remained.

Philadelphia International Airport reported virtually no delays, cancellations or stranded overnight passengers.

“It’s looking really good here,” spokeswoman Victoria Lupica said Wednesday morning.

In snowbound neighbourhoods in New York, where hundreds of buses and dozens of ambulances got stuck in the snowdrifts, unplowed roads still hampered bus service Wednesday morning. Officials, while making no promises, had said they hoped to have streets cleared by later in the day.

“It’s a bad situation and we’re working together to correct it,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Some 1,000 vehicles had been removed from three major New York City-area expressways alone, the mayor said.

General delays were reported Wednesday morning at New York’s Kennedy airport, where at least three airliners — two Cathay Pacific planes and a British Airways plane — were stuck for more than seven hours Tuesday while they waited for an open gate.

The airport remained filled Tuesday night with passengers on cell phones and laptops, trying to rebook flights, make hotel reservations or figure out alternate plans. Lines at counters for rental cars, ground transportation and lost luggage remained long throughout the day.

More than 5,000 flights were cancelled at the three main airports in New York — 1,000 on Tuesday alone.

As airlines struggled to catch up, they dispatched planes to Kennedy 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 the airport.

Gigi Godfrey, of Belize, spent 10 hours trapped in a Cathay Pacific plane until the flight was finally able to deplane on Tuesday.

“It was so frustrating, just sitting there for hours, waiting for more bad news,” the 24-year-old said. She was passing through New York after spending Christmas in Thailand and couldn’t remember when she had first boarded a plane.

“I am so tired I don’t even know what day yesterday is,” she said.

Cathay Pacific spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the planes had taken off under the assumption that they would have somewhere to go upon landing. US airlines operating domestic flights are not allowed to keep passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours, but international flights and foreign airlines are exempt from the rule.

At JFK’s Terminal 7, exhausted would-be travelers trapped in the airport for hours — or in some cases days — had removed the rope barriers from around a British Airways advertising display touting “new, “roomier business class seats” and were sleeping, stretched out or slumped over, in the model airplane seats.

Airport staffers said a small Starbucks counter that was shuttered Tuesday had yet to reopen after running out of supplies on Sunday. The one remaining vendor, a Subway sandwich shop, had huge lines throughout the day.

Pedro Acero, a manager at ABM cleaning services, said he normally ran three shifts a day at the terminal, with 20 cleaners per shift.

He had finally been able to bring more staffers in Tuesday, to relieve the original pre-storm shift of 20 people. They had been working nonstop since Sunday to keep bathrooms, floors and walkways clean despite the huge volume of people sleeping in the airport, tracking ice and snow in on slippery floors, and using the bathrooms.

“We were sleeping and working in shifts, one group outside, then inside,” Acero said.

Acero said at the height of the storm the pace of the snow accumulation had even been too much for the airport’s snow melting machines.

In New York, service on trains plagued by snow-generated signal problems and short-circuits was improving but not back to normal days after the storm. The Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s largest commuter railroad, had only seven of its 11 lines running.

In an Internet video that instantly went viral, New Yorkers were shown shouting epithets at a city crew that crashed into a parked car while trying to free a construction vehicle.

In hard-hit New Jersey, politicians debated the merits of a law that leaves the Senate president in charge of the state when the state’s top two leaders — in this case Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno — are absent. Christie is vacationing at Disney World in Florida until Thursday, Guadagno in Mexico.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker personally helped some residents dig out their cars and was using Twitter to respond to others seeking help. Booker said he’s “set a record for Diet Coke consumption” since Sunday night.

“I’m still getting a lot of tweets for help, so I’m going to stay with this for a while longer,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


In this Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, file photo, Kevin Fagan, from San Francisco, talks on his phone while a British Airways airplane sits motionless on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. – Photo: AP

Comments are closed.