Winter storms trigger travel headaches in 30 states; plane slides off taxiway in Buffalo

John Bacon, USA TODAY

An unrelenting winter storm marching east from the Plains and Midwest on Sunday was one of a series of weather calamities facing weary Thanksgiving weekend travelers across the nation making their way home.

In the Northeast, a powerful nor'easter was colliding with cold air to trigger the first heavy snow of the year from New Jersey to Boston. AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alan Reppert said Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey were seeing some of the day's worst weather Sunday – ice, snow and wind.

As some New York schools announced closures, Gov. Andrew Cuomo advised non-essential state employees to stay at home Monday. Some areas were forecast to get an inch of snow an hour starting Sunday evening and lasting into Monday.

Snow accumulations of up to 16 inches and a tenth of an inch of ice can be expected in some areas around Boston, the National Weather Service said.

"The @CityofBoston &@BostonPWD are well prepared for the storm that’s coming #Boston's way," Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted. "We encourage residents to use caution when traveling, assist vulnerable neighbors & keep up with shoveling."

In Buffalo, a Delta Connection flight from New York slid off a taxiway after an "uneventful landing" Sunday morning, Delta Air Lines confirmed to USA TODAY. None of the 64 passengers aboard the Endeavor Air CRJ-900 were injured, the airline said.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield said parts of the state could see snow Sunday through Tuesday morning. A foot of snow was forecast for parts of northeast Pennsylvania.

“With a storm like this, a difference of just a few degrees can quickly change weather and road conditions,” Padfield warned.

Icy conditions caused crashes on Interstate 84 later in the day, and the storm forced a section of Interstate 81 to temporarily close. 

The storm system, dubbed Winter Storm Ezekiel by The Weather Channel, was causing havoc in more than 30 states. In the Midwest, more than 700 flights were delayed or canceled Sunday at airports in Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis alone. The number exceeded 2,000 on Saturday.

"Heavy snow will continue to plaster the upper Mississippi Valley and northern Great Lakes region into Sunday night," AccuWeather warned. "Strong winds will make for whiteout conditions at times."

In some areas Sunday, fog was a major culprit.

"Allow extra time and use heightened caution," the National Weather Service in Chicago tweeted. "If encountering dense fog slow down, use low beam headlights, and keep adequate following distance from the vehicle in front of you."

Strong, gusty winds will extend over much of the Plains and spread east of the Mississippi River on Sunday afternoon and night, AccuWeather said.

Some areas could get up to 2 feet of snow, and isolated areas near the Great Lakes could see 3 feet. The city of Lead, South Dakota, was hit with 30 inches of snow and reported snow drifts in excess of 5 feet.

Areas around Duluth, Minnesota, had 20 inches as of 6 a.m. Sunday. In Midland, Mich., the city reported numerous trees and power lines down because of ice – just four days after a power outage forced closure of City Hall.

The West was not exempt.

A front driving heavy rains and high winds that rolled onto the California coast centered below San Francisco was expected to pound parts of the state with heavy rains and high winds for several days, and heavy snow was expected in the mountains. More than 1,000 flights were delayed or canceled into and out of San Francisco on Saturday and Sunday.

"Current wind gusts over 40 mph across the area. The strongest winds are in the hills and along the coast, where local gusts up to 60 mph are being observed," the weather service in San Francisco tweeted Sunday morning. Then later: "Just lost power at the office. Thank goodness for the emergency power generator!"

In the mountains northeast of Los Angeles, nearly 9,000 customers lost power because of heavy snowfall, Southern California Edison said. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter storm dubbed Ezekiel triggers Thanksgiving weekend travel chaos