Winter storm results in canceled flights, delayed passengers at St. Thomas airport


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ST. THOMAS - Maya Williams rode around on her parents' luggage Friday afternoon, just one of the ways she kept herself busy while she and her parents waited for her flight back home to Erie, Pa.

"She just got some ice cream, so that should keep her happy for a bit," said her mom, Barbara Welton, who watched her daughter with her husband, Jason Williams.

The family made up just a few of the passengers stranded in the Virgin Islands on Friday because of the extreme winter weather that descended upon the Northeast and Midwest in recent days.

The behemoth blizzard, known now by some meteorologists as "Hercules," began dumping snow on the region Thursday, with the snowfall peaking Thursday night and Friday morning.

Two Jet Blue flights out of King Airport on St. Thomas that were headed to Boston were canceled Friday, and several other flights coming into or going out of St. Thomas for other airlines were delayed, according to Monifa Marrero, spokeswoman for the V.I. Port Authority.

The delayed flights were heading to or from Boston; Newark, N.J.; New York; or Philadelphia.

"It was not bad," Marrero said. "With the holidays it's definitely been busy."

No flights were delayed or canceled at Rohlson Airport on St. Croix, according to Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

For stranded passengers, Tourism was available to help.

"It is a normal part of our stranded passenger policy to help them out," Nicholson-Doty said.

Though the department rarely helps travelers financially, they help them finding accommodations last-minute, she said.

Most families, though, seemed to be on their way by Friday evening.

Across the nation, approximately 1,500 flights were canceled, according to AccuWeather, as nearly two feet of snow fell Friday in some areas and temperatures plummeted to sub-zero.

The storm was responsible for 15 known deaths across the country, according to the Associated Press late Friday afternoon, though it was beginning to subside Friday evening.

"We're lucky so far," said Mike Facine, who flew with his wife, Debbie, and daughters to St. Thomas for New Year's vacation.

The Facine family had heard no reports of delays by Friday afternoon, though they admitted that they were more worried about their drive later in their trip.

"Us getting from here to Atlanta, and from Atlanta to Baltimore, no problem. Getting from Baltimore to home, that'll probably take longer," Debbie Facine said.

The Midwest is expected to be hit hard during the weekend by blizzard conditions, while the Northeast's storm is expected to die down, according to AccuWeather.

The Port Authority does not help travelers whose flights have been delayed or canceled, Marrero said, though sometimes the airlines can be of assistance, as can the V.I. Tourism Department.

"I think of all the places to get trapped in right now, St. Thomas is not a bad place. I'm wearing a tank top, and it's - what - it's seven degrees right now in Erie," said Welton, who found out minutes later that the plane she and her family were waiting for had finally departed from Newark, N.J.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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