Blizzard rages across eastern US, creating holiday chaos

Snow removal in front of the White House in Washington, DC on January 3, 2022

WASHINGTON — After a painful holiday week with canceled flights and record spikes in Covid-19 cases, a strong winter storm on Monday further disrupted U.S. travel and shut down the federal government and schools.

Many Americans have scramble to return home after Christmas and the New Year as several thousand flights have been canceled since December 24 due to bad weather and airline staffing problems, partly due to rising coronavirus infections among crews.

According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, as early as 9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT) Monday, the first business day of 2022, nearly 3,500 flights were canceled, including 2,000 US or international flights that originate or end in the United States.

Combined with 2,700 US flights canceled on Sunday and 2,750 US flights grounded on Saturday, the recent cancellations exacerbated the misery of holiday travel.

“Hey @SouthwestAir, can you stop canceling every single flight out of DCA (Washington National Airport)? I have to go home!” Passenger Kyle Hughes wrote on Twitter.

Further disruption piled up as a winter storm battered the capital and other parts of the mid-Atlantic, with official forecasts of five to 10 inches of snow in Washington.

“Heavy wet snow and gusty winds could bring hazardous travel conditions and isolated power outages,” the National Weather Service reported in its latest alert, warning of possible “thunder snow,” which includes lightning and thunderbolts.

Federal employees in and around the capital have been urged to stay home. However, as teleworking became routine during the two-year coronavirus pandemic, it was unclear how much would be affected by the government.

Schools in the region were also closed due to snow.

Airports in Chicago and Atlanta — key transit hubs — as well as Denver, Detroit, Houston and Newark were badly hit over the weekend. East Coast airports in New York, Washington and Baltimore canceled most flights through Monday.

A woman named Kayla described her own ordeal on Sunday: “I was supposed to be home at 10:30am yesterday morning.

Air travel around the world has suffered over the holiday season due to airline staffing issues related to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant coronavirus.

Many pilots and flight attendants have called in sick after testing positive or being forced into quarantine due to contact with someone who has the virus.

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