Weather woes leave many holiday travel plans up in the air

Story highlights

  • More than 160,000 customers are still without power
  • Some 1,700 flights within, into or out of the United States are canceled Friday
  • New storm system is predicted to drop more snow on Northeast after leaving Midwest
  • At least 21 people have been killed in weather-related incidents, authorities said

A long weekend bookended by two holidays -- Valentine's Day and Presidents Day -- would typically be a big one for travelers -- two reasons to take a break from routine and see a bit of the world.

But even before the weekend officially began, many were seeing little more than the inside of airport terminals.

At New York's LaGuardia Airport, one girl en route to Miami with her father seemed resigned to her fate.

"Now, we just have to wait ... and wait ... and wait ... until our flight goes out," she moped after her flight to Miami was canceled.

"I want to sink in the pool and relax, so I'm trying to keep my hopes up," the girl told CNN sister station NY1.

The holiday hopes of a young man at LaGuardia appeared dimmed Thursday. "I'm going to San Francisco -- Valentine's Day -- and it's pretty much over with," he told CNN affiliate WTNH-TV.

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This uncertainty stretched into Friday for George Demmy, who was looking for things to do a day after Delta Air Lines canceled his return flight to Atlanta from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Rescheduled on a Sunday flight, the 47-year-old chief technology officer for a software company was staying in a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. "What I'm doing is just kind of popping from place to place," he said. "Going to different cafes and just trying to combine work and pleasure the best I can."

He was not alone. Nate Bronstein tweeted from Philadelphia International Airport: "3 flights have been canceled trying to get to Chicago. Onto Plan D... The long wait..."

Still, the 1,700 flight cancellations and more than 7,100 delays within, into or out of the United States as of 9:30 p.m. ET Friday -- as reported by the flight tracking website, FlightAware.com -- put the airlines on track to get more people where they wanted to go than was the case Thursday. Then, more than 6,000 flights were canceled and 11,000 delayed.

A Federal Aviation Administration map showing airport conditions signaled few problem areas outside LaGuardia and New Jersey's Teterboro Airport near New York, San Francisco International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida.

Amtrak suspended some service in the Northeast, South and Mid-Atlantic regions Thursday but canceled only two long-distance services for Friday and said it would operate a normal schedule Saturday along the Northeast Corridor.

Long-distance operations in the Southeast were also expected to resume in full Saturday.

In New York, Thursday's snow caused tractor-trailers to jackknife, prompting authorities to ban commercial traffic on Interstate 84, a major east-west highway.

In Wellesley, Massachusetts, a woman went into labor while stuck Thursday in ice-bound traffic, CNN affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston reported. She gave birth in an ambulance as it arrived at a hospital.

Most of the travel woes sprang from the nor'easter that threw sleet, snow and freezing rain across the South this week and continued to pound an icy path up though Maine on Friday after burying parts of the Northeast under a foot or more of snow.

Snow was predicted to fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour in the northernmost regions.

Near Philadelphia, freezing rain made roads slick.

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But there and in New York, the storm abated by sunrise, when a winter storm warning ended.

A system was moving toward the Midwest on Friday and likely to drop 1 to 3 inches of snow, then move into the Northeast on Saturday and drop a similar amount.

And on Saturday, a fast-moving system is predicted to form in the Midwest, dropping another 1 to 3 inches of snow, then move into the Northeast, where scant accumulation is predicted.

But relief for many is on its way as higher temperatures from the South move northward. Highs on Friday are predicted to be in the 40s as far north as Richmond, Virginia.

The warmer weather should be melting ice in the Northeast by the middle of next week.

The Northwest is not being spared unsettling weather. Showers and mountain snow are predicted through the weekend in some areas, with a flood watch called for in coastal Oregon, including Portland. As much as 6 inches of rain are predicted from Friday through Sunday.

For some, it was not so much the latest snowfall, but the relentless pace of the storms.

That's why New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Thursday: "Welcome to winter storm six of the last six weeks."

And as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said before the worst of the storm hit: "This has just been a brutal winter where it never really has gotten warmer. And so the natural melting away of snow and ice is not happening."

At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the latest storm. Three of them were in Howard County, Maryland, where three men -- ages 45, 55 and 57 -- suffered suspected cardiac arrest "while in the act of shoveling snow," county spokesman Mark Miller said.

The casualty toll includes three in Texas and eight in North Carolina, authorities said

In New York, a 36-year-old pregnant woman died after being struck by a tractor clearing snow. Her nearly full-term baby was delivered by cesarean section and remained in critical condition Friday, said Jodi Cross of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

From Louisiana to Massachusetts, more than 160,000 customers were without power as of 9 p.m. Friday, a figure less than half the amount reported just nine hours earlier.

The vast majority of those outages -- more than 155,000 -- were in North and South Carolina.

The United States had no lock on challenging weather. CNN iReporter El-Branden Brazil shot images in Tokyo as residents coped with the heaviest snow the city has seen in years.

And in Datchet, England, flooding was severe, and even Princes William and Harry helped move sandbags.