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Travel At A Near Standstill Along The East Coast


The transportation industry is also taking a hard hit. Travel is at a virtual standstill along the East Coast because of Sandy. Up to 15,000 flights have been canceled. Amtrak service in the Northeast is shut down again today. And crews are just beginning to assess the extensive cleanup work needed to clear tracks and roads.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Travelers across the Northeast have been going nowhere fast. Some who thought they were getting lucky, got half way home before hitting the end of the road.

ERIN LENTZ: I mean it is nice. At least we're still together.

SMITH: It would take a honeymooner like Erin Lentz to find the bright side. She and her new husband spent a blissful honeymoon in Hawaii, before things suddenly turned. Waking up Saturday to a tsunami warning siren, and evacuating their hotel was just the beginning. Then their flight to Philly was cancelled, they re-routed to Chicago and waited five hours for their connection, only to learn - it was cancelled. They were told it would be days before they'd take off.

LENTZ: Now we are going to rent a car and try to drive at least as far as we can and see where we end up.

SMITH: The drive could be 15 hours, if the roads re-open, and it may be a grueling ride, as Eric van Leuven and Kenny Javakula can tell you. They were in New York when their flight home to LA was cancelled, so they rented a car, escaping just half hour before the bridges closed. And set out on a white knuckle 16-hour drive to Chicago.

ERIC VAN LEUVEN: It was pretty much pitch black. We were in a two-lane road. We didn't really have any other cars on the road. It was a pouring rain and there were times where like, you know, the winds were gusting, and you know, tall cars were shaking around, everyone kind of like on edge, you know, hoping we're not going to crash or anything.

KENNY VAN JAVAKULA: Yeah. It's been stressful is all I can say.


SMITH: Unfortunately, however, there was simply no other way.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Amtrak (unintelligible).

SMITH: At Union Station, in Washington, D.C., the PA system broadcast messages about unattended bags, but unfortunately no boarding calls.

ARTURO PUA: I was hopeful, that at least hopefully there would still be at least some operation going south bound, but yeah, unfortunately, it was cancelled. Yeah.

SMITH: Bad enough that Arturo Pua came Friday from Charleston, South Carolina, to D.C. to renew his passport, only to find the government office closed. But then, trying to catch his train back home yesterday, he found himself stranded.

PUA: I don't have anywhere to go to and it's too pricey staying in hotel, so I'll probably just stick it out here.

SMITH: Pua sat on the train station floor, emailing his boss why he wouldn't be in.

Kelly Glynn and Matt Janesak had even more explaining to do, they got stuck in Chicago returning from a wedding in Texas, with little chance they'll get home to Maine tomorrow, where they're supposed to close on a new house and move in.

KELLY GLYNN: Everybody knows we've been making every logistic phone call, you could - every, the moving company, the title company, our mortgage broker, everybody knows. It is what it is. There's nothing we can do. I mean...

MATT JANESAK: You can't get angry.


GLYNN: Yeah, you can.

JANESAK: ...you can.

GLYNN: ...once that happens.

JANESAK: And crying in that kind of stuff.

SMITH: Lutheran Pastor Al Vomhof was similarly Zen about the inconvenience, even 700 miles and probably 48 hours away from his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

PASTOR AL VOMHOF: I think God is trying to get out attention. You know, as far advanced as we are as people, there are still things we can't control.

SMITH: Vomhof says he'll be making good use of the time - working on his laptop, knowing that when he does get back to Pennsylvania, as he puts it, there'll be a lot of work to do.

Tovia Smith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.