Skip to content

Travel misery grinds on as US digs out from superstorm

Thousands more flights were canceled across the United States on Wednesday, and days of travel woes did not come to an end as the country emerged from a deadly superstorm.

Officials in western New York state’s Erie County, which was hit hardest by the massive winter storm, raised the death toll to 34, bringing the national total to at least 56.

Mayor Byron Brown tweeted early Wednesday morning that power outages have been reduced to 500 residents as the county’s main city, Buffalo, continues to work around the clock to restore power.

A different kind of crisis was occurring at US airports across the country. Southwest Airlines has been forced to cancel thousands more flights as it tries to recover from a worsening logistics collapse.

The airline’s predicament has left thousands of customers stranded, not just pilots and flight attendants.

Donald Snyder, whose Sunday flight from Baltimore to Indianapolis was canceled, returned to the airport on Wednesday hoping to reunite with his suitcase.

“I didn’t try to come early this week,” Snyder told AFP while standing in line at a luggage storage area in the southwest.

Storms that hit the United States just before the busy Christmas weekend brought unusually cold temperatures to much of the country, including southern states such as Texas and Florida.

Temperatures were mild across the country on Wednesday, including in Buffalo, even though the region remained in triage mode.

The city on the shores of Lake Erie near the Canadian border saw the majority of storm-related deaths.

Commuters and some residents fleeing freezing homes were trapped on the highway as temperatures plummeted Friday night, preventing first responders from reaching them.

Erie County Chief Executive Mark Polonkers told a news conference that the bodies of three of the confirmed deaths have yet to be identified.

Polonkers said on Twitter that the National Guard had planned to conduct door-to-door health checks on all homes in the blackout area, but reiterated that the driving ban is still in effect in Buffalo.

“I know some people are running out of food,” he said. “We have rations available at community warming centers.

– Southwest “Optimistic” –

Southwest Airlines still took days to resolve a system-wide malfunction.The airline canceled more than 2,500 flights on Wednesday.According to tracking website FlightAware, most of the US flights scrubbed It accounts for 90%.

In a series of media appearances, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged Southwest CEO Bob Jordan to compensate airlines for the increased costs of canceled flights and travel-related spending. By demanding the company, he said, the government would “hold them accountable.”

According to a video statement posted on Southwest’s website, Jordan said he was “really sorry” and promised to “make things right for customers.”

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be back on track by next week,” he added.

Jordan admits the issue highlights the need to upgrade outdated travel planning software that has been overwhelmed by the storm.

The issue has been highlighted by the flight attendants union, which is calling on Southwest Airlines to invest more in its employees. Several influential Southwestern unions are sticking to contract negotiations even after previous agreements have expired.

TWU Local 555, another union representing ground workers, said the meltdown reflected Southwest’s failure to adapt its system as operations evolved.

Local 555 President Randy Burns said, “It can be complicated, especially during the holiday season, but during extreme weather conditions, such as the bitter cold of winter and the extreme heat of summer, you should consider increasing the distance between flights. there is.

During extreme weather, “we need to consider delaying the entire schedule,” says Barnes.

Some travelers have taken matters into their own hands.

Realizing the Southwest couldn’t make it from Arizona to Boston in time for Monday’s NHL Winter Classic, Tim Maher rented a car for his family of six and set out on a cross-country drive.

Maher told CNN that the ride itself was surprisingly fun, but that his family didn’t have any luggage.

“I’m thinking about people’s luggage. They can’t get their luggage for a week. I think this is crazy,” Maher told the network.

“People are putting gifts, medicines, and electronics in the bag you just handed them, thinking they’ll get them in a few hours.”

bur-jmb/des/sst