New York woke up under a blanket of snow Saturday as two winter storms collided in the northeastern United States, causing major travel upsets.
Meteorologists had warned the storms could white-out a huge swath of the Atlantic coast, from Virginia in the south to Massachusetts in the north, but at the last minute they spared the nation's capital, Washington.
The timing of the inclement weather was particularly inconvenient for New Year's Eve parties, including the numerous outdoor festivities planned by municipalities across the eastern states.
Among the celebrations likely to be hampered was New York's fabled year-end celebration in Times Square, which generally draws tens of thousands of revelers each year.
But New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani seemed undaunted.
"I don't think a little snow is going to stop New York. We're much tougher than that," he told reporters in the city's crisis headquarters.
"If it snows, it snows," said police chief Bernard Kerik. "We'll deal with it and we'll see everybody at the New Year's celebration."
Snow began falling before dawn Saturday in the New York City area, and by 8:00 am (1300 GMT), 10 centimeters (five inches) had accumulated.
Forecasts called for snowfall to continue throughout the day covering the city with up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) one day before merrymakers were to begin assembling in midtown Manhattan.
Giuliani earlier reassured New Yorkers that crews would be able to remove snow from Times Square in time for Sunday night's outdoor party and said the city would open 10 schools for use as emergency shelters. New York State Governor George Pataki put the national guard on standby to help.
The National Weather Service earlier had issued a winter storm warning predicting that New York City and surrounding areas could get up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) of precipitation, making Saturday's snow potentially the heaviest since the 50-centimeter (20-inch) blizzard of January 1996.
New York's three major airports were anticipating extensive delays and cancellations as the storm was set to arrive during one of America's busiest travel weekends, coming at the end of the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.
"It's going to be ugly," predicted Delta Air Lines spokesman Russ Williams.
"We're going to be taking down a significant portion of our schedule throughout the Northeast."
Continental Airlines canceled some 225 flights, most of which were scheduled to leave or arrive Saturday at Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports in the New York area.
American Airlines canceled flights in New York, Washington and Boston.
A spokeswoman for Boston's Logan Airport told AFP that the airport had taken steps to mobilize its 100-some airfield personnel.
"In the event that we need everyone, everyone is available," as are some 50 to 60 pieces of snow and ice-removal machinery, including plows and blowers said spokeswoman Barbara Platt.
The inclement weather arrives as parts of the southern and midwestern US continue to dig out from under snow and ice left by devastating storms earlier this week, which have been blamed for some 40 deaths: 22 in Texas, 11 in Oklahoma, four in New Mexico and one each in Arkansas, Missouri and Minnesota.
In Texas, some 40,000 people were still without electricity, according to Don Rogers, a spokesman for the state department of public safety's emergency management division.
On Friday, over 200,000 in Arkansas were without power and 32 shelters were open, housing 712 individuals, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), while in Oklahoma, 19 shelters housed 400 individuals -- NEW YORK (AFP)
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