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NY region struggles as up to 1 foot of snow falls

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Travelers were stranded at airports and drivers tripled or quadrupled their commute times Tuesday as a winter storm blitzed the New York region with blowing snow and biting cold.

Forecasts called for a foot or more of snow before the storm was expected to clear the region early Wednesday morning.

As of Tuesday evening, more than 11 inches of snow was reported on Manhattan's Upper West Side, while Stony Brook on Long Island recorded 11 inches and Armonk in Westchester County had just under 10 inches.

At LaGuardia Airport, a television monitor displayed a litany of canceled flights.

“We don't expect to get out here till 6 p.m. maybe, tomorrow,” said Paula Black after her flight to Chicago was canceled.

Taxi driver Tarik Charfane said it was difficult to go faster than 20 mph on Manhattan's West Side.

“You don't make any money in this job if you don't have three customers an hour, and with this weather, you might not,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties. He also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to monitor storm developments.

Several townships on Long Island declared states of emergency, and by midafternoon many highways across the region were clogged with vehicles moving at a snail's pace across snow-covered pavement.

New York City officials said clearing snow from the city's streets had been slow going because the storm intensified just in time for the evening commute.

Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said the traffic of the Tuesday rush hour “bottled” them up in many of the streets. Mayor Bill de Blasio asked drivers to stay off the roads to help sanitation crews have an easier time clearing them.

New York City schools remained open Tuesday, while after-school programs were canceled. Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina later announced that schools would be open on Wednesday.

The Long Island Rail Road said it was adding extra trains to its afternoon schedule to accommodate commuters attempting to leave work early. Forecasters predicted the heart of the storm would strike later Tuesday evening.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would run a modified service schedule on its subways, buses and commuter rail lines Wednesday.

Officials also closed courts in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Pat Audinot, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said there were no plans to close the Long Island Expressway or other major roadways on the island. Cuomo had ordered the LIE and other state roads closed during another snowstorm earlier this month, but the spokeswoman said that although roadways were crowded on Tuesday they were still considered passable.

North of New York City, Interstate 95 was bumper to bumper, forcing some to leave the highway in New Rochelle. That caused another traffic jam on Boston Post Road.

“I just want to get to the Bronx,” said Peter Neuwens. “It's a big place. Why can't I get there?”

In White Plains, Anthony Schirrone, of Greenburgh, pulled over to scrape snow from his windshield.

“I just did this five minutes ago,” he said. “But it's coming down too fast.”

___

Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik in New York, Jim Fitzgerald in Westchester and APTN's Joseph Frederick contributed to this report.

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