Minimal impact here so far from big snow storm

Winter Storm Hercules had only minimal impact on flight operations to and from Costa Rica Thursday, but delays and cancellations in the northern United States and Canada have reduced visitor numbers. The impact may be greater today.

Air flights by major lines arrived Thursday, but some were late. The only cancellation at Juan Santamaría was of United Airlines flight, No. 1082, from Newark, New Jersey, that was supposed to arrive at 10:15 p.m. The reason was not given, but the strengthening storm was the likely reason. United, American and Delta flights arrived from New York and Newark earlier in the day. But they were as much as 68 minute late.

United said that it was expecting the worst of the storm to be Thursday night. The airline expected the storm to continue moving east with snow stopping by lunchtime today even in the New Jersey and New York areas.

There were reports of many canceled local flights all over the northeast. These are the flights that bring tourists and other travelers to Costa Rica to the major airports for their international trip.

According to one account, the powerful storm forced about 1,807 U.S. flights to be canceled and about 4,536 delayed, with the worst-affected airports being Chicago’s O’Hare International and Newark’s Liberty International Airport. That summary was from FlightAware, a Web site which tracks air travel.

The heavy snow also brought dangerously low temperatures and strong winds that snarled travel just as many people were returning from holiday breaks.

The wide storm system stretched from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with parts of New England including Boston bracing for as much as 14 inches (36 cm) of snow by Friday morning. Some cities along the storm’s southern edge expect only minimal snowfall.

Boston’s Logan International Airport warned that it expected takeoffs to end at about 8:30 p.m., and officials at New York area airports were setting up cots for potential stranded travelers.

The snowfall was expected to intensify after sunset, with the heaviest accumulation coming overnight.

“The real action is going to get cranked up this evening and during the overnight hours. We’ll have heavy snow, windy conditions, reduced visibilities,” said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts, earlier Thursday.

Forecast snowfall varied widely, with Washington expected to see under an inch (2 cm), Philadelphia and New York 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm), Hartford 6 to 10 inches (15-25 cm) and Boston 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm).

Officials across the region urged residents to stay off roadways and planned to close some major highways in New York State beginning at midnight.

“Tomorrow people should definitely consider staying in their homes if the storm continues as we expect,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “This is nothing to be trifled with. We have learned too well over the past few years the power of Mother Nature. We have seen the damage that has been done.”

The U.S. National Weather Service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to levels 20 to 30 degrees below normal, with record lows possible today. The low temperature in the contiguous United States Wednesday was -47 Fahrenheit (-43 Celsius), reached in Van Buren, Maine, and tied in Babbitt and Embarrass, Minnesota, the weather service said.

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