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Worst day yet for winter travelers

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 3:40 PM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: More than 6,300 flights canceled across U.S. by early Thursday afternoon
  • Washington, Philadelphia and New York are under the gun for the storm
  • Many East Coast cities will see snow, sleet and ice Thursday
  • Amtrak is cutting back or canceling train routes

(CNN) -- To anyone trying to commute on the East Coast on Thursday: Sorry for your miserable experience.

It doesn't matter if you're traveling by plane, train or automobile; if you live between North Carolina and Boston, expect lots of fresh snow outside your window and the inevitable delays that will come along with it.

In the sky: Tons of flurries, not so many flights

Thursday has been the worst day "by far" of 2014 for flight cancellations, with more than 6,300 U.S. flights canceled by mid-afternoon of about 29,000 scheduled flights, according to Daniel Baker, CEO of flight tracking service FlightAware. The second most affected day of a notoriously brutal winter was January 6, when more than 4,100 flights were canceled, Baker said.

The winter weather took a big bite out of schedules at airports in Charlotte, North Carolina, Philadelphia and the New York and Washington metro areas, and was still having a big impact in Atlanta, where the storm tapered off Thursday morning.

After more than 3,400 flight cancellations Wednesday, the familiar scene of stranded, weary passengers roaming around airports will only get worse.

"I think what makes this so exceptional is that it affected so many different areas over so many days and comes on the heels of several different storms," Baker said via e-mail of the week's pileup of airline cancellations.

Another flight tracking service, masFlight, has tracked 73,000 U.S. flight cancellations so far in 2014 due to the barrage of winter storms.

Airline experts say this year's rash of flight cancellations is the worst to hit the industry since the entire U.S. airspace was closed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

New York bracing for another snowstorm
Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia. Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia.
Southeast storm moves north
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Southeast storm moves north Southeast storm moves north
Carolina drivers stuck in icy traffic jam
Stuck behind a burning car in N.C. traffic jam

On the rails: Amtrak cutting back

If you were planning to travel long-distance by train, it's time to make other arrangements.

Amtrak said at least six long-distance routes along the East Coast have been canceled since Wednesday.

Several shorter routes will be running less often or on modified schedules Thursday, including those between Washington and Boston, Boston and Virginia, New York to Albany and New York to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In the car: Don't do it

Take a lesson from Atlanta's debacle two weeks ago and Charlotte's fiasco on Wednesday -- cars and ice don't play well together.

Yes, those who live farther up the East Coast can handle winter weather better than their Southern neighbors. But it isn't just a little precipitation.

"This is going to happen up and down the East Coast. New York, Philadelphia, D.C., Richmond, same story -- it's going to snow hard," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

"You could get 6 inches in a couple of hours, and then it's going to rain on top of it, sleet on top of that, and then snow comes back in because cold air comes in behind it."

Washington was pummeled with snow late Wednesday night. Lucky for government employees there, they don't have to go work. Federal offices are closed Thursday in the nation's capital.

CNN's Mike Ahlers and CNNMoney's Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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