AirTran Airways has canceled all Monday flights in and out of Atlanta, and Delta has scrubbed one-fourth of its schedule due to an icy winter storm.
AirTran said the rest of its network was operating normally. It said stranded travelers could be rebooked on flights Tuesday through Thursday.
Delta said in midmorning it canceled more than 1,450 flights including those on regional affiliate Delta Connection — one-fourth of its schedule. The airline canceled about 500 flights Sunday.
Delta said affected customers could rebook without paying fees.
The snow and freezing rain that is making commuting nearly impossible in parts of the South is also affecting travelers in South Florida.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, there were 29 flight cancellations and one delay at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to information provided by Broward aviation spokesman Greg Meyer.
Fifteen departure cancellations included 11 flights to Atlanta, three to Charlotte and one to Raleigh-Durham. Fourteen arrival cancellations included 12 from Atlanta and two from Charlotte.
Delays and cancellations were also being listed on the status boards at Palm Beach International Airport and Miami International Airport.
Sitting on the floor inside the terminal in Fort Lauderdale, flyer Ruben Estrada,32, searched for new flights on his laptop. Estrada found out his Delta flight back home to San Antonio, which had a layover in Atlanta, was cancelled Monday morning when he arrived at the airport. “I’m frustrated,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault but I just want to get home and see my kids.”
Estrada was not alone in his frustration.
Passenger Taylor Sorillo, 18, said she was told Monday by airline officials that it could take days to find an available flight into Charlotte as the airports will need time to get caught up with the hundreds of flights cancelled over the weekend. Sorillo, a freshman at Davidson College, was on her way back to school Sunday when her flight initially got cancelled. After further disappointment Monday morning, Sorillo said she decided to drive rather risk any more cancellations. “I’m upset, I was looking forward to starting school,” she said. “And it’s an eight-hour drive.”
Passengers with flights to Atlanta and other southern cities such as Charlotte and Memphis, Tenn. are urged to check with their carriers before heading for the airport.
The winter blast rolled across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain. The governors of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee declared emergencies and schools and colleges called off classes. Snow and ice had blanketed several cities, including up to 3 inches in parts of Atlanta, which rarely gets so much.
“We don’t have weather events like this,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an on-air interview with CNN. “I think the amount of snow we’re getting is probably a 10-year event for the city of Atlanta.”
Despite officials imploring people to stay off the roads, interstates around Atlanta were clogged with cars early Monday.
Georgia was expecting up to 6 inches in the northern mountains from the powerful storm that also dumped snow and ice in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Forecasters said the front could also bring sleet and freezing rain lasting into Tuesday in Georgia.
And unlike other times when an inch or two of snow coats the ground, temperatures were not expected above freezing into Tuesday, so it won’t melt.
“Since it’s going to be pretty cold over the next few days, we could see whatever accumulates sticking around for a few days,” National Weather Service meteorologist Daniel Lamb said.
Forecasters expected the most extreme conditions in Mississippi and northern Louisiana overnight with the possibility of heavy ice accumulation in places.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said workers had readied snow and salt trucks to help clear icy roads, and he asked all residents to stay home through Monday unless it is imperative to travel.
Birmingham roads were ice-covered and treacherous, weather service meteorologist Mark Rose said. Some areas were reporting at least a tenth of an inch of ice in the central Alabama city, he said. Quite a few roads were closed, and conditions were expected to deteriorate overnight.
Mississippi officials warned motorists that ice on roads and bridges in many counties created hazardous driving.
The weather service posted winter storm warnings from east Texas to the Carolinas.
The snow in downtown Atlanta came down heavily for hours. Other areas were experiencing thunder snow and even lightning.
Cars were having trouble on the slippery streets and highways all over the South, with numerous slideoffs, though there were no immediate reports of serious accidents. Off and on, the snow was mixing with sleet around Atlanta, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Beasley.
Atlanta television station WXIA showed people sledding down a snow-covered hill in Piedmont Park on a kayak early Monday.
The storm forced Georgia officials to move Monday’s inauguration of newly elected Gov. Nathan Deal from the state Capitol steps inside to the shelter of the House chamber. The inaugural gala was scrapped to keep supporters off treacherous roads.
Thousands of flights have been canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest.
Delta Air Lines canceled 330 flights Sunday and another 1,400 flights Monday. AirTran Airways canceled 14 flights for Sunday and another 270 for Monday, spokesman Christopher White said. Reed said officials did not want people to be stranded at the airport or on planes.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport spokesman David Magana said 200 flights, or about a quarter of the schedule, were canceled in anticipation of the weather.
In eastern Tennessee, the Weather Service said 4 to 6 inches of snow could fall, with the heaviest hitting early Monday.
Churches across the South canceled Sunday night services.
The worship leader at one prepared to use a web camera to broadcast an abbreviated worship service over the Internet from his home since members couldn’t make it to church.
“I’ll just do one or two acoustic songs, something like that, just to keep it going until next week,” said Ben Nelson of Helena United Methodist Church in suburban Birmingham. Besides snow, some areas around the city have gotten a tenth of an inch of ice, the weather service said.
Auburn University students must go somewhere other than campus to watch the Tigers play in the national championship bowl game Monday. The university has canceled all viewing parties and other events planned as the state prepares for severe winter weather.