After the storm, buses beckon

With many planes and trains still not running, the options include 31-hour rides to Florida — or, for some, a room at a hotel

By Katie Johnston and Christina Reinwald
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent / August 30, 2011

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With Amtrak service halted and hundreds of flights canceled in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, stranded travelers flocked to buses yesterday to get out of Boston.

Lines snaked around the terminal in South Station as passengers tried to snag a seat on BoltBus, Peter Pan, Lucky Star, and other bus lines that resumed operations yesterday after canceling service over the weekend.

Tee Snowiss, 73, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., was supposed to fly out of Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., yesterday afternoon after attending a wedding in New Hampshire. Instead, she was waiting to take a 31-hour bus ride to Orlando, which is about 180 miles from home - the closest Greyhound could get her.

“It’s been an absolute disaster,’’ Snowiss said. “If I don’t have a heart attack from dealing with all this, I don’t know what will do it.’’

Travel was still snarled yesterday, and transportation officials said it would probably take another few days to work through the backlog of canceled flights and trains. At Logan International Airport, all but six of the approximately 900 incoming and outgoing flights were canceled Sunday, and 350 more flights were canceled yesterday.

Karen deMoor, who was in Maine with her husband and her parents last week, was supposed to fly back to San Francisco Sunday morning. Instead, she is stuck at her parents’ house in Boston until tonight.

But she’s enjoying the extra time with her family while redesigning the website for the Pilates studio she and her husband own. “It’s not the end of the world,’’ she said. “I’m rolling with it.’’

Nationwide, about 10,000 flights were canceled due to Irene. Some who could not get commercial flights turned to corporate jet service. PlaneClear, of Long Island City, N,Y., had a 400 percent increase in inquires over the past four days, according to the company, including from a Boston client who found himself stranded in Las Vegas on Saturday and shelled out $23,500 to get home yesterday morning.

For some hotels, the weekend was busy, as guests who could not get out of Boston made up for the guests who could not get in.

At the three Kimpton hotels in the area, 75 stranded travelers were treated to a reduced $99 daily rate - down from about $300 a night - as well as to movies such as “Shrek,’’ “Ice Age,’’ and, of course, “The Perfect Storm’’ in the hotels’ ballrooms. The guests were also treated to board games and free snacks in the lobby, and $5 Hurricane and Dark and Stormy cocktails at the bar.

“We like to turn it into a fun time for everyone,’’ said Rick Colangelo, regional vice president of operations for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, which include Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, Nine Zero Hotel on Tremont Street, and Onyx Hotel on Portland Street.

Amtrak canceled 175 trains up and down the Northeast Corridor over the weekend, and trains remained out of service yesterday as the tracks and power lines were restored. Train travel was expected to be restored - and largely sold out - today.

Travelers often have a difficult time understanding why train service remains canceled after a storm passes because “it’s a beautiful sunny day,’’ said spokesman Clifford Cole. But after a hurricane or other unusual weather, it often takes longer to bring trains back in line than after a snowstorm while workers assess damage from flooding and fallen trees, he said. “Amtrak’s policy is to stop service until we feel safe to [restore it].’’

Peter Pan Bus Lines was operating at capacity yesterday, with more buses being added to accommodate the extra demand, said Frank Dougherty, vice president of operations.

“We’ve got pretty much all hands on deck today,’’ he said, “ calling in guys on days off and bringing in equipment from all divisions to keep up with passenger flow.’’

Alicia Fry, 52, a social worker supervisor from Queens, N.Y., was one of those passengers. She waited in South Station for six hours yesterday after an ill-fated trip to Hampton Beach, N.H.

“It was my first vacation in 20 years,’’ Fry said. “Everything that could go wrong did. My car broke down before the storm even hit, and then the bus out of Portsmouth on Saturday was canceled.’’

Barring additional catastrophes, Fry expected to board a Greyhound bus last night and be back in New York by 10 p.m.

Katie Johnston can be reached at