The first event to happen was a massive snowstorm, known as a bomb cyclone, which dumped as much as 18 inches of snow on the area creating whiteout conditions. Over 66 percent of flights in and out of New York City were canceled along with flights to Boston and many other destinations. Almost 3,200 flights were canceled on Wednesday and Thursday across the United States. This led to planes not being in a position to pick up passengers who were stranded at John F. Kennedy Airport with over 230 flights diverted to other locations. Although flights eventually resumed, many passengers continued to be stranded as airlines scrambled to get passengers rebooked to their destinations.
Lack of communications caused another major headache for passengers with many having to sit on planes on the tarmac for hours as the few available gates could not handle the planes still landing there. When planes were given the OK to proceed to a gate, then they often discovered that the bone-chilling temperatures made the equipment not work right.
Just when passengers and staff thought they could not handle any more catastrophes, a water pipe broke in Terminal 4 because of the frigid temperatures. Passengers arriving at this terminal that serves as the main international terminal had to make their way to the upper level leaving their suitcases laying in flood waters. While airport employees tried their best to control the water, the water was getting near an electrical circuit forcing the terminal to be evacuated. Some passengers left their suitcases behind to endure the freezing temperatures despite coming from more tropical climates while others waited at other terminals for up to five hours for their suitcases to appear.
The New York Port Authority says that they will carefully study each problem that occurred during the weekend in hopes of finding better solutions. While many passengers took everything in stride, others found it to be a very inhospitable introduction to New York City.