Deadly storms that swept across the country during the holidays continued Monday to wreak havoc on travel plans in the U.S. and delay flights for thousands heading in and out of South Florida.
More than 3,500 flights in the U.S. were delayed as of the late afternoon, and another 2,000 flights canceled, according to the live flight-tracking website Flight Aware. Storms and icy weather caused hundreds of cancellations and backups at major airline hubs in Illinois and Texas.
In South Florida, the delays weren’t nearly as pronounced but still inconvenienced thousands. As of midday, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport reported 21 delayed arrival and departure flights, which spokesman Allan Siegel called “kind of normal.” At Miami International, an estimated 5,800 passengers were scheduled to board 39 flights that were either delayed or canceled by 3 p.m., according to Miami-Dade Aviation spokeswoman Suzy Trutie.
Still, in a two-week holiday season in which nearly 4 million travelers are expected to pass through the two major South Florida airports, both spokespersons said those delays were minor when put in context.
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“Certainly, if you're on the flight you definitely felt it,” Trutie said. “But even during busy travel period, as far as the number of flights, it's not too bad.”
Though South Florida has enjoyed mostly warm and sunny holidays, much of the country has been hit by severe storms since Christmas Eve. State and local authorities in the regions hit by deadly twisters and flash floods reported Sunday evening that days of tumultuous weather had contributed to 42 deaths. American Airlines, based out of Fort Worth, in a region hit by snow and a major weekend tornado, experienced about 1,000 delays and cancellations Monday, according to Flight Aware.
In El Paso, Texas, many Hurricanes fans who traveled to see the University of Miami play in the Sun Bowl found themselves temporarily stranded as the area was suddenly hit with half a foot of snow. Many were likely among the roughly 13,800 travelers whose flights in and out of Miami International Airport were delayed or completely nixed due to the storms.
Meteorologists, though, believe the weather should begin to calm as conditions grow less favorable for severe storms and tornadoes.
“Today it's in the Gulf Coast states, at least from a standpoint of severe storms and tornadoes,” said Bill Bunting, operations branch chief for the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. “The good news is the overall threat will continue to diminish as we go into tomorrow and into the later part of the week.”
Still, Bunting said rainfall and dangerous flooding associated with winter weather should continue in some places. And Siegel said travelers should still prepare for typical holiday delays when boarding a flight.
“We've had minimal impacts,” said Siegel, who couldn’t say how many passengers or flights had been delayed Monday specifically because of weather. “But we always tell the passengers to check with the airline before you leave.”
Miami Herald staff writer Susan Miller Degnan, McClatchy wire services and The Associated Press contributed to this report.