After a grueling holiday week of flight cancellations and a record surge in Covid-19 cases, a powerful winter snow storm further rattled American transportation on Monday, shutting down the federal government and bringing Washington to a standstill.
The storm packed an unexpectedly fierce punch and appears to have sealed off much of the capital city, temporarily stranding US President Joe Biden on Air Force One and nine inches (23 cm) over Washington. cm) are dumping snow.
Many Americans are scrambling to return home after the Christmas and New Year period, with thousands of flights canceled due to bad weather and blaming airline staffing for rising coronavirus infections among crew.
According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 4,900 flights on Monday, the first working day of 2022, were canceled globally as of 8:30 p.m. (0130 GMT Tuesday), including 3,173 flights.
The latest cancellations – along with delays of 6,775 US flights on Monday – added to the holiday travel misery.
While much of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic was mired in inclement weather, the situation was dire in the capital and neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia, with accumulations above 12 inches in some places, according to meteorologists, who found it to be the region’s largest. Said snow storm. At least in two years.
“It’s a heavy snow,” said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, as plows were driven to clear snow, trees and power lines were downed, the US Senate postponed votes and health officials canceled COVID tests. Gave.
“If it’s not absolutely necessary for you to go out, stay home and stay off the streets,” she warned.
With airports facing blizzard conditions, officials at Washington and Baltimore airports reportedly ordered temporary ground stops during the afternoon whiteout.
Biden himself had snow-laden his presidential plane after landing at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, delaying the landing by half an hour so that the tarmac could be plowed.
The winter blast offered a distraction from Washington’s endless political divide: In enigmatic scenes, children were seen sledding on Capitol Hill while adventurers cross-country skiing on the National Mall.
‘I need to go home!’
But for everyday travelers, holiday travel turned into a nightmare.
“Hey @SouthwestAir can you please stop canceling every single flight from DCA (Washington National Airport)? I need to go home!” Passenger Kyle Hughes wrote on Twitter.
Federal workers in and around the capital were asked to stay home. But as telework became routine during the two-year coronavirus pandemic, it was unclear how much influence the government would have.
Nearby schools have also been closed due to snowfall.
Airports in Chicago and Atlanta – major transit hubs – as well as Denver, Detroit, Houston and Newark were hard hit over the weekend. As of Monday, East Coast airports in New York, Washington and Baltimore were canceling the most flights.
A woman named Kayla described her own ordeal on Sunday: “I had to go home at 10:30 am yesterday and at this point I have canceled 3 flights and one has been delayed to the point where my connection was released.”
Across the world, air traffic has been hit during the holidays due to airline staffing issues linked to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.
Many pilots and flight attendants have called sick after testing positive or being forced into quarantine because of contact with someone with the virus.
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