Travel Quagmire: 700 Flights Grounded, Trains Suspended, NJ Transit and SEPTA Buses Halted

NJ Transit announced all buses would be suspended at 3 p.m. as train lines began scaling back service.

More than half of all flights at the Philadelphia International Airport have been canceled. Dozens of Amtrak's scheduled trains along the Northeast Corridor line have been canceled. Crashes on Interstates 95 and 76 shut down major highways.

And that's what happened before heavy snow arrived Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Officials at the airport and with the region's major transit agencies told travelers unlucky enough to have plans on this daylong storm to monitor their arrangements. Changes will eventually be posted, they said.

"Customers will be re-accommodated on trains with similar departure times so please check on or your smartphone app," a statement from Amtrak said. "For customers looking to change reservations for travel during the modified schedule, Amtrak will waive the change fee."

Amtrak will continue to run on a modified schedule Thursday.

On average, the airport handles about 1,000 flights each day. As of 1 p.m., 700 flights were canceled.

Then there are those who had to drudge through the sleet, snow and wind to work on modes like NJ Transit buses. You had better leave your job early: NJ Transit said its entire bus system would shut down at 3 p.m.

The snowstorm that first landed Tuesday and will linger through the evening Wednesday is to blame. It's the fourth nor'easter in a month, and most damaging to the prospects of flying out of or into Philadelphia is that the hazardous conditions will last 36 hours.

Up to a foot of snow is expected to fall in many places across southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, according to the NBC10 First Alert Weather Team. Strong winds and flooding in coastal towns are also forecast.

Beyond Amtrak, other train systems, including SEPTA, PATCO, and NJ Transit, shifted to alternate schedules. SEPTA Regional Rail lines were operating on a Saturday schedule, limiting the number of trains running. The Cynwyd line is no longer operating.

SEPTA General Manager Jeff Kneuppel said Wednesday will be a very difficult travel day for anyone using the system. However, the agency had subways and buses operating on a normal schedule Wednesday morning. SEPTA is preparing to resume normal weekday service on all modes Thursday though delays, bus route detours, suspensions and cancellations are still possible.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation issued restrictions on certain vehicles traveling state highways, starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Here is a link to the full list of restrictions. They concern commercial trucking, hauling trailers, motorcycles and RVs, and the restrictions applied to all highways throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.

Despite lower-than-normal volume on most of the major roads in southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, crashes did bottle up some of the main highways in the morning. Two tractor trailers were involved in a serious crash in Lancaster County near Reading on Interstate 76, shutting down the westbound lanes.

A Philadelphia police vehicle crashed on Interstate 95 about 10 a.m., closing two lanes. It is unclear how many injuries were the result of the crashes. 

AAA Mid-Atlantic said its roadside assistance service responded to more than 350 motorist calls in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region.

"AAA call volume remains low as motorists are heeding the travel warnings," the company said in a statement at 2 p.m. "However, it has increased substantially in the past hour as road conditions deteriorate."

Here are some of other agencies' advisories and changes in service:

  • In Philadelphia, where a storm emergency will go into effect 9 a.m. Wednesday, all cars parked along streets designated "snow emergency routes" as well as nearby intersection corners need to be moved. Or, the city said, the cars will be towed to other locations. Here is a map of the routes. If your car is moved, call (215)686-SNOW to find it. The city said car searchers should not call 9-1-1.
  • NJ Transit said its trains would operate with a "severe weather rail schedule," meaning limited weekday service. Its bus service could be suspended before the evening rush hour begins, the agency warned. Here is a link to service changes and other anticipated disruptions to travel on the transit system.
  • Numerous SEPTA bus routes were halted by 1:30 p.m. They are 7, 9, 14, 15B, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 35, 38, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 61, 62, 65,70, 73, 77, 84, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 99, 103, 107, 108, 112, 114, 117, 119, 120, 124, 125, 126, G, H, XH, J, K, and L. Check here for continual updates.
  • In Delaware, the DART bus service in Kent and New Castle counties will be suspended at 6 p.m. Paratransit riders with scheduled trips after 6 p.m. will be contact to schedule an earlier trip.
  • Delaware Gov. John Carney announced a "Level 1 Driving Warning" for all roads, which means all motorists "are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle on the State's roadways unless there is a significant safety, health, or business reason to do so."
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