UPDATE: Travel ban lifted after #Snowzilla wreaks travel havoc in US


Cape Town - Millions of people in the eastern United States dug out on Sunday from a historic blizzard that brought New York and Washington to a standstill, killing at least 18 people after it walloped several states from Friday into early Sunday.

An estimated 85 million residents were told to stay in doors and off the roads for their own safety, following a travel ban on Friday and Saturday across New York as the massive Storm Jonas or #snowzilla as it has since been dubbed wreaked chaos, with travel woes continued to be expected.

With the storm finally tapering off overnight, officials in New York lifted a travel ban at 7:00 am Sunday (12;00 GMT), restoring access to roads throughout the city and in Long Island and New Jersey.

Forecasters said 26.8 inches (68 centimeters) of snow fell in New York's Central Park, the second-highest accumulation in the city since records began in 1869, and more than 22 inches paralyzed the capital Washington.

South African Airways (SAA) has confirmed the airline has resumed all flights from Johannesburg to the two United States cities, Washington DC and New York City on Sunday evening. 

We are pleased to announce that we will resume our operations out of Johannesburg this evening after we received updates that adverse weather in the east coast of the United States (US) is beginning to ease off, making it possible to commence our service to the US,” said SAA Spokesperson, Tlali Tlali 

SAA said SA 209 from Johannesburg (JNB) via Accra (ACC) to Washington (IAD) has departed at rescheduled 21:00 and SA 203 from Johannesburg (JNB) to New York (JFK) as scheduled at 21:30 local time South Africa 

Sunday flights SA 208 from Washington (IAD) via Dakar (DKR)  to Johannesburg (JNB) and SA 204 from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB) remain cancelled.

"Customers with onward connections to and from Washington Dulles International Airport and  New York, John F Kennedy International Airport  may still remain impacted upon on arrival - due to operation clean-up anticipated at the respective airports. Public transportation may also be affected. Customers are encouraged to contact the Airline in use to and from the affected Airports for the latest flight information," said Tlali.

The airline confirmed assistance would be provided to all ticketed passengers holding a South African Airway’s Ticket (only) via any SAA Call Centre, City Travel Office or dedicated Travel Agent under certain conditions and are being advised to visit www.flysaa.co.za 

Travel misery

Despite the generally better weather outlook there was no immediate end in sight to the misery for thousands of air passengers.

Nearly 3 500 domestic and international flights were canceled on Sunday, FlightAware said, adding to a growing backlog caused by major airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore all grinding to a halt.

Reagan National and Dulles International airports in the US capital were expected to remain closed through Sunday, and buses and the metro system were also not due to return to action until Monday at the earliest.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said that public schools in Washington would also remain closed on Monday.

'All hands on deck'

Teams were out overnight in New York to get the city back on its feet.

Parked cars were still buried under heavy snow and sidewalks impassable in many places, as authorities scrambled to clear away the deluge for the start of the working week.

Near-record-breaking snowfall was recorded in other cities up and down the East Coast, with Philadelphia and Baltimore also on the receiving end of some of the worst that Mother Nature could fling at them.

Thousands of people gathered in parks across New York, tobogganing, organizing snowball fights and strapping on cross-country skis, as children woke to a winter wonderland under glorious sunshine.

"This was a truly historic storm and while we have made good progress we are not done working yet," warned State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"New Yorkers should still avoid unnecessary travel - please use caution, plan ahead and stay safe."

Forecasters were predicting a more forgiving outlook for the remainder of the weekend -- blue skies and sunshine with temperatures hovering at about 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) in New York and Washington.


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