Gushing water compounded meltdown at John F Kennedy International Airport, where furious passengers have camped out for days as a result of equipment damaged by the storm and a backlog of flights.
Water poured from the ceiling and the arrivals area was submerged by standing water, through which a few intrepid passengers picked their way gingerly, according to footage broadcast by CNN.
International flights into Terminal 4 were suspended and the water main break occurred just before 2.00pm (3.00am Singapore time Monday), said a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that runs the airport.
The west end of Terminal four lay under about eight centimetres of water, where maintenance crews were mopping up, with police and fire crews on site, the spokesman told AFP.
The cause of the break is being investigated, he added.
JFK confirmed the water main break at Terminal 4 and warned passengers via Twitter of flight delays, advising them to check with their airline before travelling to the airport.
Terminal 4 is used by more than 30 airlines, including Air India, China Airlines, Delta, Egyptair, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, KLM Royal Dutch, Singapore Airlines, Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic.
On Saturday the airport was forced to close Terminal 1, which serves the likes of Air France, Japan Airlines and Lufthansa, to international arrivals in an attempt to get on top of the backlog.
But tempers have flared among furious travellers, forced to sleep on the floor of terminals, with others stranded on planes for hours waiting to access a gate and massive delays in baggage claim.
“I am so angry, words cannot even express how I feel right now,” one stranded female traveller told NBC television before the water leak.
“It’s getting like a madhouse,” traveller Steven Litvin told NBC, leaving with his wife eight hours after their plane landed – with only half their luggage.
“We’re tired,” he said. “We’re frustrated. We didn’t get any sleep and we still don’t know where our bags are. Nobody knows anything.”
Ninety-four flights were cancelled at JFK on Saturday and 17 diverted, as the extreme cold and storm recovery “created a cascading series of issues for the airlines and terminal operators,” said the Port Authority.
“Frigid temperatures continue to cause equipment failures and slower than normal operations. Customers may experience residual delays, particularly for international flights,” it said.
JFK was among parts of New York that saw record lows for Jan 7, including -15.5°C.
The big freeze follows a storm on Thursday dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” which has been blamed for at least 22 reported deaths in the United States.
Boston, which saw some of the heaviest snow from the storm, froze with a Sunday morning low of -19°C – matching the previous Jan 7 record in 1896.
Massachusetts marked three record lows on Sunday, with Providence and Worcester frozen at minus two and minus seven respectively, breaking records last set in 1912 and 1942, the National Weather Service said.
The bitter cold is forecast to remain on the East Coast Sunday with highs below freezing as far south as parts of North Carolina.
Forecasters predicted ice accumulations from a band of freezing rain from Missouri through Ohio and Tennessee into the Mid-Atlantic, warning of hazardous road conditions before temperatures rise on Monday.
Extreme cold advisories were also lifted in parts of eastern Canada, albeit with midday temperatures still at minus four degrees in Quebec and heavy snowfall due in South Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Winter snowstorm barrels down on New York City area; travel crippled across the East Coast
- Arctic air strikes New York City, could produce record-cold temperatures this weekend as mercury expected to drop near zero mark
- Florida sees snowfall as winter weather grips East Coast
- Heat, humidity grip East Coast as the Midwest gets a reprieve
- Heat, humidity grips East Coast as central US sees reprieve
- Maryland hiker dies as big heat grips East Coast
- A look at hot New York hotel fireplaces during this cold spell
- Minneapolis-St. Paul airport largely unaffected so far by East Coast air traffic controller shortage
- Heat Wave in New York: 50,000 Con Edison Customers Lose Power