U.S. Northeast digs out after storm snarls travel

* New York airports reopen but long backlog for flights

* At least a dozen highway deaths attributed to the storm

* Storm dampens post-Christmas shopping spree

NEW YORK, Dec 28 (Reuters) - New Yorkers faced the task of clearing huge snowdrifts and thousands of stranded travelers looked forward to boarding flights on Tuesday after a major blizzard slammed the U.S. Northeast the day after Christmas.

New York City and surrounding areas were hit hardest by the storm, which swept up the Atlantic Coast on Sunday night and through the Monday morning commute, unleashing winds of up to 59 mph (95 kph).

Treacherous road conditions caused by ice and wind were blamed for at least a dozen traffic deaths in several states.

Financial markets operated normally but trading volumes were thinned by the storm, which also kept shoppers away from the malls on the day after Christmas, one of the busiest shopping times of the year. [ID:nN27136773]

New York’s three major airports and others in the Northeast were shut for nearly 24 hours, leaving passengers stuck in terminals with food and information in short supply.

On Monday evening, after a busy day plowing and melting snow with heavy equipment, John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were opened to departing and arriving flights, but further delays were expected.

“Some 4,500 flights have not taken off the past two days and it will take two to three days to take care of those people and get back to some sense of normalcy,” Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told NY1 television.


More stories on the storm [ID:nN27263596]

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Factbox on canceled flights [ID:nN27231260]

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The sun came out on the U.S. East Coast as the storm moved into Canada’s Maritime provinces, but the biting cold raised concerns about whether Times Square in New York could be cleared of snow ahead of Friday’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

True to the refrain that “the show must go on,” Broadway shows went ahead as scheduled on Monday. But many offices closed for the day, including the United Nations, which canceled all events at its New York headquarters.

Utility crews were working to restore power to tens of thousands of homes throughout the Northeast, while subway and Amtrak passenger rail services faced problems returning to normal schedules.

New England states were also digging out. In Boston, only essential city employees were asked to report to work on Monday.

Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering, Edith Honan, Aman Ali, Ros Krasny, Jon Hurdle, Emily Chasan, Lou Charbonneau, Chris Michaud, Lynn Adler and Jonathan Allen; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by John O’Callaghan