Impending East Coast Storm Wreaks Havoc on Chicago Travel

Hundreds of Chicago flights were canceled Friday in response to a potentially historic blizzard menacing the Eastern United States.

By 8 a.m., nearly 60 flights had been canceled at Midway International Airport, as well as more than 135 flights at Chicago O’Hare.

Nationwide, more than 2,300 flights have been canceled and 2,600 are delayed, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. Another 2,300 flights have already been canceled for Saturday.

O’Hare is among the top 10 airports reporting the most flight cancellations ahead of the storm, along with two in North Carolina, three in the Washington, D.C. area, Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, New York and Boston, according to FlightAware.

Chicago airports were calm Friday morning in comparison to the scene many travelers witnessed trying to get out of town Thursday night. Lines at O’Hare were described as “nightmarish.”

American Airlines is canceling the bulk of its flights in the Northeast. At its Charlotte hub, all 654 American flights are canceled for Friday. The airline will not keep any jets there overnight, with plans to resume flights to Charlotte on Saturday morning.

Other airlines are following suit.

United airlines tweeted Thursday that it was suspending service at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport "and other mid-Atlantic airports" starting at 4 p.m. ET on Friday. It was also suspending United Express service from Newark.

Some Amtrak trains to and from the East Coast have been canceled or their routes shortened, including trains between New York and Miami, Chicago and New York or Washington, D.C., and others. Amtrak advises that passengers check the schedule to see if their trip had been canceled; refund information is available here or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

Check with individual airlines for up-to-date flight and waiver information.

The blizzard could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region, according to the National Weather Service, burying the nation's capital under more than 2 feet of snow.

Snow could come down as quickly as 2 to 4 inches per hour and continue for up to 36 hours, dumping up to 30 inches of snow on the Washington area, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and 6 to 12 inches in New York.

As food and supplies vanished from store shelves, five states and the District of Columbia declared states of emergency ahead of the slow-moving system. Schools and government offices closed pre-emptively. Thousands of flights were canceled. College basketball games and concerts were postponed.

The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation, Naitonal Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said.

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