Winter storm disrupts holiday travel plans

December 23, 2008 9:02:52 PM PST
There have been more than 400 flights canceled at O'Hare alone on Tuesday affecting thousands of holiday travelers. And it's not just the snowy weather in Chicago. There is a lot of wintry weather in many other parts of the nation making it nearly impossible for some people to get home in time for Christmas. Christmas carolers tried to bring tidings of comfort and joy to holiday travelers at O'Hare on Tuesday, but it seems many have already been bitten by the grinch who stole their travel plans.

On one of the busiest travel days of the year, thousands of holiday hopefuls have arrived at O'Hare Airport to find their flights cancelled or delayed.

If you are coming out, expect to spend time on the cell phone, rearranging your flight. Bring a book, pack some patience and find a spot on the floor to camp out for a while. Whatever you do, don't try to bring wrapped presents through security. There is complimentary gift wrap on the other side. A travel expert from farecompare.com says with airlines cutting back on flights these days because of the economy, you might expect there to be fewer delays. But it's not working out that way.

In theory, that should be a lot better for traffic, but the problem is you still have a handful of airports that control the rush hour of aviation and when you mix that with completely full holiday flights, it's a recipe for disaster," said Rick Seaney of FairCompare.com.

There are a lot of flights managing to get out but delays are common averaging 30 to 90 minutes and it is the same situation at Midway Airport, though there have been far fewer cancellations at Midway on Tuesday.

Other forms of transportation have also been affected by the weatherl. Greyhound says the weather has disrupted its service across the U.S.

Six buses scheduled to either leave from Chicago or arrive in the city on Tuesday were cancelled.

Chicago area roads messy

On Tuesday afternoon, traffic on the Kennedy Expressway at the Randolph overpass was just barely moving.

The side streets are covered with ice and snow. Residents are having a difficult time driving on many city streets. Some Chicagoans claim they have never seen such treacherous conditions on the side streets and they are concerned about residents who live in the area.

"This is the worst one we ever had. Many people getting laid off?need to get the streets together, get the snow up. It's ugly. People need to get around out here," said Zuriel Anderson, Chicago resident.

"Streets and sanitation needs to get out here and get on the job. Too many people stranded, man. People are stuck. Look at the streets," said Laveil Harper, Chicago resident.

The Streets and Sanitation commissioner says snow command has been monitoring the incoming snow bands to main streets and doing their best to keep traffic moving. Side streets are also a concern. They realize it must be addressed.

"That is our goal: to complete all the mains right now and get ready for this evening's rush and keep an eye on the system behind the one we just had and eventually get into the side streets, be it this evening or the early morning hours of tomorrow," said Mike Picardi, commissioner, Dept. of Streets & Sanitation.

According to Picardi, it has been a difficult season and the freezing temperatures make it difficult to keep side streets clean.

"Even though we plowed Saturday night, we plowed Sunday, the best we could do was flatten out the streets but they're still going to remain frozen until temperatures rise," said Picardi.

Streets and sanitation announced it has increased the number of snow-fighting trucks from 184 to 274 which is 100 percent of the fleet.

"If that system is heavy and produces snow that will cover the main, we will keep that out on the mains and once we're finished with the main after midnight at some point we will get inside and do all the side streets," said Picardi.

The commissioner says that one problem is when people clean around their cars and sidewalks and throw that snow into the side streets and that freezes and creates an ice problem. Picardi urges the public to put the snow in the parkway instead.

Forecasters say subzero temperatures that hit Illinois will give way to a snow and ice storm.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory from early Tuesday through early Wednesday across the northern tier of Illinois. Meteorologists say they expect snow to accumulate 2 to 4 inches on Tuesday before changing over to sleet and freezing rain on Tuesday night.

The expected snow and ice storm comes after brutally cold subzero temperatures and wind chills of as low as minus 35 degrees hit Illinois over the weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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