Plane skids off runway in record US snowstorm

A Turkish Airlines flight skidded off a runway at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport early today, after a record-breaking storm buried sections of north-eastern America under more than two feet of snow.

The big freeze frustrated thousands of marooned travellers, but thrilled winter-lovers who took to the streets with cross-country skis and snowshoes.

Transport chiefs say they expect to have roadways clear for today’s rush hour.

All three of the major New York-area airports were closed for much of the day and airlines cancelled more than 500 inbound and departing flights – 200 each at LaGuardia and Newark airports and 120 at Kennedy.

Newark and Kennedy had reopened with limited service when Turkish Airlines flight 1 skidded off the runway at 9.20pm local time (2.20am today, Irish time) as it was landing. None of the 198 passengers was injured, a regional transportation spokesman said.

It was unclear whether the icy weather was responsible for the incident.

The storm came on the heels of an unusually mild January that had people shedding jackets and ski resorts lamenting lost business.

“It’s sort of crazy because it was so warm a couple of weeks ago and now we have knee-deep snow,” said Skye Drynan, walking her dogs in Manhattan.

Winds gusted up to 60mph and in a rare display of lightning lit up the falling snow before dawn in the New York and Philadelphia areas, producing muffled winter thunder.

The National Weather Service said 26.9ins of snow fell in Central Park, the most for a single storm since record-keeping started in 1869. The old record was 26.4ins in December 1947.

“We might not see anything like this again in our lifetime,” Jason Rosenfarb said as he walked with his five-year-old daughter Haley in Central Park.

New York officials expected to have all roads cleared by today.

Elsewhere, 21ins of snow fell at Columbia, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington, as well as at East Brunswick, New Jersey, Hartford, Connecticut, and West Caln Township west of Philadelphia, the National Weather Service said. Philadelphia’s average for an entire winter is about 21ins.

The airport closures and grounded planes stranded travellers elsewhere across the country. About 7,500 people were stuck just at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, spokesman Steve Belleme said.

“We’ve been playing cards for two hours. We expect to play a lot more cards,” said Cliff Jefferson whose flight was among the more than 80 cancelled at Miam International Airport.

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