Hurricane Sandy became Superstorm Sandy Monday night as it slammed into the east coast of the United States, leaving a trail of death and destruction that stretched from Jamaica to Canada and disrupting travel across the globe.
The storm, which began a week ago in the southern Caribbean and moved north through Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas before hitting the U.S., claimed its first life in Canada Monday when a Toronto woman was killed by a sign that broke loose in high wind caused by Sandy.
Several cruise ships were stranded in Canada, unable to make their way to scheduled ports of call on the American coast from Maine south. The Norwegian Gem cruise ship was kept out of New York harbor by the storm Monday, but Norwegian Cruise Line officials said they hope the vessel will be able to pick up passengers in the city Wednesday.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the storm has claimed the lives of at least 16 people in the United States and is responsible for a minimum of 66 deaths from Jamaica to the Bahamas. About 7.5 million East Coast residents were without power as high winds and flooding caused by Sandy damaged electrical facilities.
President Barack Obama declared New York and Long Island major disaster areas after Sandy brought a 13-foot storm surge through Long Island Sound and into New York harbor, flooding much of lower Manhattan. All of New York’s major airports, including Kennedy and LaGuardia, were closed by the Port Authority Monday night. They remained closed Tuesday morning.
“It is unlikely there will be scheduled flight operations to/from NYC today and some airlines have begun canceling flights on Wednesday,” flight tracking service FlightAware.com reported.
Since Sunday, at least 15,773 flights have been cancelled due to Sandy, according to FlightAware, including more than 4,000 in New York City and 2,500 to and from Philadelphia.
At least 600 flights were cancelled Monday that were due to land or take off from Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
“Every airline is allowing fee-free changes (and refunds in some cases) for itineraries potentially impacted by the storm,” FlightAware noted. “The best way to make flight changes is on airline websites; call centers are typically overwhelmed during major events.”
The impact of the storm on air travel was not limited to the U.S., as many international carriers had to cancel flights to the states. At least 100 flights between the U.K. and the East Coast were scrubbed on Tuesday, according to Sky News.
“We are doing all we can to help customers whose flights have been cancelled,” a spokesman for British Airways said, “and will look to use larger aircraft on some routes when the full flying schedule resumes to help get customers to their correct destination as quickly as we can.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic noted that flights to the U.S. had been heavily booked early this week due to a school holiday in Britain.
According to the Washington Post, travelers as far away as Hong Kong and Tokyo were affected by the flight cancellations. The paper reported one traveler in Hong Kong was told it could be a week before he could get a flight back to the U.S.
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