Hundreds of flights cancelled, runways closed at DC airports; BWI stays open but quiet


WASHINGTON – Hundreds of flights were cancelled Thursday at the three airports serving the Washington and Baltimore areas as a result of a major winter storm.

Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports closed around 6 a.m. Thursday. Crews were making good progress clearing runways and taxiways midday, but it was not yet clear when the airports would reopen, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling said.

On a normal day, there are about 840 flights at Reagan National and 750 at Dulles. Some international travellers were waiting in the terminal at Dulles on Thursday because their flights had not yet been cancelled, Yingling said.

The last flight to arrive at Dulles was from Johannesburg, South Africa, around 6 a.m. There were no arrivals Thursday morning at Ronald Reagan, which is not usually operational during the overnight hours.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport remained open throughout the storm, but spokesman Jonathan Dean said all but a handful of Thursday’s flights have been cancelled.

Reagan was virtually silent, with flights cancelled and most vendors closed for business. People passed time on black chairs, or even tried to doze on vents, while waiting for flights that they knew had little chance of being on time. One vendor at an airport arts boutique spent the night in a green sleeping bag in the shop because, she said, customers expect businesses to stay open.

Robin Church, 59, of Washington, was trying to land a standby seat to Florida with her husband so that they could catch a blues festival in Clearwater. She said she and her husband, an airline pilot, thought it was best to arrive at the airport early in the morning in hopes that other passengers would be no-shows and they could take an earlier flight. But she said they were prepared that they might not make it out until later in the afternoon.

“It’s an adventure,” said Church, a patient care technician.

Rob Wolcott, 33, of Washington, and his wife were trying to reach St. Kitts for a friend’s wedding on Saturday at which he was supposed to officiate. They were scrambling to find alternate ways south after an earlier flight got cancelled. The couple was contemplating driving to Charlotte but “driving in a sleet storm is also not high on our to-do list,” said Wolcott’s wife, Maureen McGough.

The flight disruptions were especially disheartening given that the couple had planned the trip for months and that Wolcott had a special role at the nuptials.

“They’re a little stressed,” Wolcott said of the reaction of the future bride and groom. “They’re a little less than thrilled with what’s going on, but they’ll figure something out. They will still get married whether or not I am the one to do the actual officiating.”

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