The “bomb cyclone” winter storm, one of the fiercest in decades, had already forced the cancellation of over 3,300 US flights on Saturday and the delay of nearly 7,500 more, a day after nearly 6,000 were scrapped, according to tracking website Flightaware.com.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Saturday that “the most extreme disruptions are behind us as airline and airport operations gradually recover” – words that travelers stranded at airports including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York were holding on to.
New York City resident Zack Cuyler, whose flight home to Houston on December 22 has been postponed then canceled twice this week already, was “pretty steamed” about the chaos.
The 35-year-old now hopes to reach his loved ones by December 25. “I’m just glad I’ll get to see my family for Christmas,” he told AFP.
Road ice and white-out conditions also led to the closure of some of the nation’s busiest transport routes, including the cross-country Interstate 70, parts of which were temporarily shut down in Colorado and Kansas.
The National Weather Service warned about lethal conditions and urged residents in affected areas to remain indoors. On Friday, it said wind chills had sent temperatures plunging to -48 degrees Celsius.
At one point during the day, nearly 1.7 million customers were without electricity in the biting cold, according to tracker poweroutage.us.
Though power had largely been restored by late Saturday, people were urged to conserve electricity and rolling blackouts were instituted in some parts of the country, including in North Carolina.