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Airlines cancel thousands of U.S. flights over winter storm


A plane sits on the airfield as flight cancellations mount during a cold weather front as a weather phenomenon known as a bomb cyclone hits the Upper Midwest, at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 22, 2022. REUTERS/Matt Marton/File Photo

Airlines canceled nearly 2,700 U.S. flights as of Saturday afternoon after a massive winter storm snarled airport operations around the country, frustrating thousands of holiday travelers.

There were flight delays within, into or out of the United States totaling about 6,200 as of Saturday afternoon, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, which showed total U.S. flight cancellations at around 2,700. The cancellations as of Saturday afternoon included over 750 from Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and nearly 500 from Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N).

The flight disruptions came as an arctic blast gripped much of the United States on Saturday, causing power outages and car wrecks. Plummeting temperatures were predicted to bring the coldest Christmas Eve on record to several cities from Pennsylvania to Georgia.

Temperatures were forecast to top out on Saturday at just 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) in Pittsburgh, surpassing its previous all-time coldest Christmas Eve high of 13 F, set in 1983, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity over the past 70 years, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. This is in part due to climate change, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, because the planet evaporates more water into the atmosphere as it warms, leading to more overall precipitation.

On Friday, U.S. flight cancellations stood at 5,936, according to FlightAware.

“Increased air traffic volume and winter weather affecting the northern half of the U.S. could still cause delays to holiday travel,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday, though travel conditions were expected to improve.

An NBC News affiliate reported that inclement weather canceled over 130 flights as of Saturday morning at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Some passengers told the news outlet they were not notified before coming to the airport.

An ABC News affiliate showed long lines at the Denver International Airport on Saturday morning, where over 150 flights were delayed and nearly 130 were canceled.

Passenger railroad Amtrak canceled dozens of trains through Christmas, disrupting holiday travel for thousands.