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Travelers thwarted by winter storm

Posted March 3

— Thousands of flights up and down the eastern seaboard were grounded Monday, the casualties of the latest snowstorm in a wet and messy winter.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, more than 130 flights had been canceled by 4 p.m., and more cancellations were expected throughout the evening.

For travelers looking to make their escape, it wasn't so much the sprinkle of cold rain in the Triangle but the forecast for much more farther north that put airlines on alert. Carriers are now much more likely to cancel flights at the first sign of bad weather. For instance, more than 550 flights to and from New York were canceled Monday, even though the city only got a light dusting of snow. Original forecasts had called for much higher snow totals.

The hardest hit cities were Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. All flights into and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport were grounded Monday afternoon. On Sunday, airlines scrapped nearly 2,000 flights in Dallas, Chicago and Houston, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com. 

Stephanie Townsend followed best practices and checked her flight before she headed to RDU. "I looked on the United flights, and it was scheduled," she said. But an hour later when she went to check in, her flight had been canceled.

So she regrouped. 

"They've given me a discount for a hotel in the area. I hope it is a good one. And I have a flight tomorrow at 5 something in the morning. Hopefully, I will get there," she said. 

Business traveler Jimmy Smith was enduring a second cancellation of the season. "In January, we got held up (for) a week," he said.

It's been a daunting winter for air travelers. Airlines have canceled more than 87,000 domestic flights since Dec. 1, a record number. On Monday, the total canceled flights nationwide topped 2,000. 

There are more than 30,000 flights in the United States on a typical day.

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