TRAVEL

Blizzard Travelers Face Long Trips Home, But Remain Remarkably Upbeat

02/08/2013 03:53 pm 15:53:57

By the time Thomas Bifano arrives in Boston on Friday afternoon, he will have been on the road for more than 20 hours because of the Northeast blizzard. But he remains optimistic.

"It's wonderful for me. I'm very excited to get home," said Bifano, a professor of engineering at Boston University. He flew from San Francisco to Chicago Thursday night, slept a little at the airport, departed for New York first thing in the morning, and prepared to hop on the last train to Boston out of Penn Station before service to the area was suspended.

With 3,000 flights already canceled as a result of the storm, many of those at Penn Station Friday opted to think outside the box with their plans and take on an "it could be worse" mentality, relieved they'd be getting home at all.

"My boss got creative with me," said Melissa Reaves-Wagner, who has been in New York since Monday for business and is trying to get home to Seattle.

When Reaves-Wagner's flight was canceled, her boss managed to get her an Amtrak ticket to Philadelphia and re-booked her on an evening flight home from there.

"Philly will get me out by 5:30 and to Seattle by 8:30. Score!" she said, thankful that she wouldn't face the alternative of spending an extra three days in New York.

"I have two girls and a husband, and that's a long time to be gone," she said.

January Windrow, who lives in Virginia Beach but was in New York for work this week, said she couldn't sleep on Thursday night thinking about how she would get home on Friday. Anticipating that her flight would be canceled, Windrow went ahead and booked an Amtrak ticket, despite the fact that it would be -- barring any delays -- a nine-hour ride.

"I had a feeling that I was going to be stranded," Windrow said. "It's better than three days here with snow. I'll take the nine hours."

Though there were lines of travelers waiting to meet with Amtrak agents, several of them noted that they'd been able to book new tickets or reschedule their existing ones online with relative ease.

Christine Clay, who was waiting to board a train to Richmond, Va., because her flight was canceled, said she couldn't help noticing that the station wasn't all that chaotic. She arrived for her train an hour and a half early, just in case, but ended up with plenty of time to spare.

Clay said that even the Amtrak baggage agents were surprised there weren't more crowds: "They said, 'We don't know what's going on because it's not busy at all.'"

Cliff Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak, said that the company took proactive measures Thursday afternoon, such as letting travelers know that service to Boston would be cut off early so that they could make alternate plans. "We knew that the storm was likely to get worse as the day went on ... Our strategy was to get as many trains out to Boston as we could," he said.

Cole added that Amtrak hadn't yet determined whether service would resume to Boston Saturday morning. But, he said, Amtrak is accustomed to dealing with snowstorms, unlike hurricane Sandy, which disrupted service for several days.

"It’s a blizzard and we've been through them before and we'll go through them again," he said.

In addition to the changes with Amtrak's service, several other transportation adjustments are underway in New York City and along the East Coast as a result of the storm.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that extra trains would be added to Long Island Rail Road and Metro North to make it easier for commuters to get home. In Boston, however, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced that all modes of service would be suspended as of 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

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