How flight cancellations and dangerous Storm Elliott conditions upended the journeys of these travelers

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(CNN) — Over the weekend, millions of vacationers loaded their cars with stuffed bags and rushed to airports.
The surge in holiday travel this year is expected to push up to pre-pandemic levels. But many people’s plans were foiled last week by a massive Arctic blast that plunged much of the country into frigid temperatures and hit parts of the Midwest and Northeast over the weekend in heavy snow and blizzard conditions. .

Between Thursday and Christmas, more than 15,000 domestic and international flights were canceled, with thousands more delayed at airports from Atlanta to Las Vegas.

Southwest Airlines accounted for the majority of flight cancellations, with thousands of passengers stranded in operational disasters in what CEO Bob Jordan called “the biggest event we’ve ever seen.” increase.

Closed highways and treacherous road conditions have also made driving dangerous, especially in hard-hit New York state where “large numbers” of vehicles were left on the roads and snowplows and rescue vehicles buried under snow in ditches. In northern Erie County, more than 500 people were stranded in their cars Friday night despite a county driving ban due to a brutal snowstorm.

From stranded tour groups to strangers gathering on long drives, here are the stories of travelers who grappled with the woes of a chaotic Christmas weekend trip.

college football umpire misses last game

After 28 years as a college football umpire in the Pac-12 conference, Michael Mothershed planned to play his last game before retiring on Monday.

However, Arashi had other plans.

Mothershed tried to fly out of San Diego on Saturday Morning to Detroit for a quick lane bowl. But his flight to the Southwest has been canceled, he told CNN Tuesday morning, after waiting in line for his four-and-a-half hours before booking a delayed Delta flight.

The replacement referee moved the game and let Mothershed watch on TV.

“It was strange,” he said. “I never expected this to happen. Not at all. It’s one of those things you go through, chalk it up, and try to move on.

“I didn’t expect this to close out my career as a referee on the field.

“As a civil servant, it is truly an honor to serve at this level.”

Stranded South Korean tour group finds refuge with New York couple

Alexander Campagna told CNN that when he heard a knock on his door as the storm was raging outside, he thought it might be a neighbor or stepfather who lives near his home near Buffalo, New York. Told.

But instead, he finds a group of Korean tourists standing on his steps, looking for a shovel to dig a snow-buried bath on its way to Niagara Falls.

“I thought, ‘No, this could be very serious and fatal,'” Campagna said. So he and his wife Andrea invited a group of 10 people to wait out the storm at home while keeping in touch with three members of the English-speaking group, he said.

“When our guests walked into our home, we believed early on that this storm was about to blow and they would hop in the car and head to Niagara Falls. About 30 minutes,” he said. “If there was a blizzard, it could have been in another galaxy.”

As their situation began to become real, Campagna began digging through freezers and looking for something that could feed a small crowd. Soon, a couple stocks of frozen chicken and pork shoulder were used.

The Campagnas are dining with a South Korean tour group stranded due to a storm.

Courtesy Alexander Campagna

“We had several born cooks in our group who were happy to prepare some exquisite Korean appetizers,” he said.

Andrea Campagna told CNN that they “absolutely” plan to stay in touch with guests.

“Some of our guests said we would welcome them to visit. And we might accept them on the offer. We really connected with them. It’s become like family to us.

While the couple were grateful to their fellow guests, Andrea also thanked volunteers and emergency and rescue workers who “went day and night to look after those trapped in their cars in the freezing cold.” I added that there is.

“They are the true heroes of this blizzard in Buffalo and show why Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors,” she said.

Dozens of trapped tourists rescued by police

Dozens of tourists are stranded on a motorcoach in North Tonawanda, New York, as two police officers attempt to rescue a trapped driver on Christmas Eve, defying snow and wind during a storm in North Tonawanda, New York. I came across

A bus bound for Washington, DC was over the road, buried in snow only a foot from a ditch, and with about 60 people on board, the vehicle was in danger of slipping and tipping over.North He said Tonawanda City Police Chief Keith Glass release.

While officers tried to send a small group of tourists to a nearby warming station, their pickup truck remained stranded in the raging storm, Glass said.

“They literally lined up these people and walked from the bus to the warming station,” he told CNN. After walking away, the group was said to be unharmed.

“They spent the whole night in a warm shelter without much food,” he told CNN.

On Christmas Day, police said they would use SWAT buses and school buses to take tourists to hotels in Niagara Falls to “wait for the next leg of their journey back to Washington, DC.”

North Tonawanda is about 11 miles from Niagara Falls.

Four strangers share a viral 20-hour drive

A group of unfamiliar travelers found themselves desperate to get home when a flight from Tampa to Cleveland was suddenly canceled on Thursday. , someone had an idea: why don’t we rent a car and drive together?

Soon Bridget Schuster, Greg Henry, Shobi Maynard, and Abby Radcliffe were crammed into a car and turned into a 20-hour drive home for vacation. documenting road trip antics, filming roadside snow angels, food stops and treacherous road conditions, her first video garnered almost 10 million views.

Luckily, a last-minute decision allowed us to slow down with almost no traffic.

“I’m from Ohio, so to be honest, it wasn’t going to stop me. I’ve even driven through some pretty bad blizzards,” Henry told CNN’s Alisin Camerota.

Maynard said the fateful trip was a lesson in not automatically assuming the worst for others.

“I think a lot of the time people can see the bad things[in people]. To us, it seemed like we automatically had that connection, because we had a desperate time of ‘having to go home to visit family’…give them a chance. I might give

Family lost luggage and car seats after flight to Disney was canceled

On Christmas Eve, Michelle Perkins, husband JJ, and six children were ready to hop on a plane from Las Vegas to Orlando for a surprise trip to Disney World and Orlando Studios, mom says told CNN.

Several airlines have canceled or delayed flights, but Southwest Airlines accounts for the majority of canceled flights. According to FlightAware, as of 10:10 p.m. ET on Monday, the airline canceled 71% of its flights (just over 2,900 total).The frustration is expected to continue only on Tuesday.

After Perkins and her family learned of the cancellation, the devastated family marched to baggage claim to pick up their car seats and luggage, but the bags and car seats were shipped to Orlando before the family could claim them. I was told that I would. Sent back, Perkins said.

“They kicked us out without our luggage and without car seats for our two young children,” she said, adding that luckily there were extra car seats. rice field.

Perkins’ husband spent nearly 10 hours on the phone with Southwest to get a flight refund and baggage claim, she said.

She added that they were told their luggage was at the Las Vegas airport, but had yet to reunite with a bag containing Christmas presents from Santa.

CNN’s Jay Croft, Dave Alsup, Celina Tebor, and Forrest Brown contributed to this report.

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