Air travel to East Coast still difficult

August 29, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Airline travel is slowly but surely getting back to normal. Irene has come and gone, but many travelers are going nowhere fast, especially those traveling to and from the East Coast.

Air passengers Jeanette and Armando Ruvalcaba were finally able to escape from New York on Monday.

"Everyone was on standby, so we just made sure to get our boarding pass ready to come back home," said Jeanette Ruvalcaba.

The Chicagoans were among those left stranded in the Big Apple by the storm that had been Hurricane Irene. They say Saturday could have been a nightmare had the storm surge forecasters predicted and officials warned of actually happened.

"Once I saw her panicking because all the water was gone, I was like, 'Uh oh,' but I was fine," said Armando Ruvalcaba. "I stayed up all through the night just to watch, because I had never seen something like this. I did see the streets were flooded, it was like a ghost town."

Those threatening flood waters forced the shutdown of New York City's subway and transit system for the first time in history.

Monday, things were slowly getting back on track as airports across the country, including O'Hare, were still struggling with the cancellation of thousands of flights.

New Yorkers Marissa and Brandon Gregory got stuck in Chicago while visiting family.

"They told us our flight was canceled on Friday. It took a few days to reschedule, but it was alright. Chicago treated us well," said Marissa Gregory.

The storm left millions along the eastern seaboard without power and claimed at least two dozen lives.

Monday afternoon, officials in the affected areas worked to repair the damage and restore power, as Brandon Gregory and his wife hoped their Lower Manhattan apartment survived the effects of the hurricane, which came almost six years to the day after Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

"I think we got out safe. We got lucky," said Brandon Gregory.

Airline officials estimate it could take at least two days before they get every piece of equipment , planes and crew members in place to have things running smoothly.

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