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More Than 7,000 Flights Canceled as Major Snowstorm Ties Up East Coast Transportation

With a possibly historic blizzard pummeling the eastern United States, more than 7,000 flights have been canceled around the country, including 4,100 on Saturday. Meanwhile, public transit is shutting down in some of the cities bracing for impact, and drivers were being warned off the roads as ice turned normally safe streets deadly.

Snow, ice and strong winds were causing problems for travelers. A plane landing at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport slid off the runway amid slippery conditions Friday afternoon.


More than 3,400 U.S. flights have been canceled already Friday and 6,600 are delayed, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. Another 3,800 flights have been canceled for Saturday, including all flights into and out of Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and New York.

Overall, the airlines have canceled about 15 percent of their scheduled flights in the U.S. for Friday and Saturday.

The top 10 airports reporting flight cancellations Friday include two in North Carolina, three in the Washington, D.C. area, Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, New York and Boston, according to FlightAware. 

Starting Friday afternoon, United Airlines is shutting down all operations in the New York City metro area and at its hub, Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. United warned fliers to expect cancellations and delays at all airports affected by the storm. The airline aims to restore "some operations" Sunday.

American Airlines is canceling the bulk of its flights in the Northeast. The airline has canceled 2,000 flights Friday, including all 654 at its Charlotte hub. American has also canceled all Saturday flights to all three Washington, D.C. area airports, all three New York airports and Philadelphia.

All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. The airports included vary by airline but include some cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia all the way up the coast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. American Airlines alone has issued waivers for 42 airports.

The only good news for fliers: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week. There are a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the U.S., according to flight tracking service FlightAware. That's about 5,000 fewer flights — and 400,000 fewer passengers — than on Thursday or Friday.

Check with individual airlines for up-to-date flight and waiver information.


Some Amtrak trains to and from the East Coast have been canceled or their routes shortened, including trains between New York and Miami, Chicago and New York, Chicago and Washington, Washington and Florida and New York and Georgia.

An Amtrak spokesperson said Friday the Northeast Corridor will operate Saturday but with fewer trains than usual. Amtrak advises passengers to check the schedule to see if their trips have been canceled; refund information is available online or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

The Metro-North Railroad, a commuter line that carries passengers through parts of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, is running as scheduled, as is the Long Island Railroad, which travels between Long Island and Manhattan. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, both railroads could cut back or suspend service when the snow arrives.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said that as of 9 a.m. Friday, ridership on the region's rail lines was down 50 percent. According to Stessel, riders had taken 37,000 trips this Friday morning, compared with 74,000 last Friday.

While the New York City subway system is unaffected by the impending storm, Washington, D.C. will shut down its Metro from 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The Maryland Transit Administration will also suspend service throughout the storm.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority — which operates subways, buses and commuter rails in five counties, including Philadelphia — will suspend most operations starting early Saturday. SEPTA hopes to restore full service Sunday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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