Flights Resuming At Denver's Airport
Saturday, December 23, 2006
DENVER, Dec. 22 -- This snow-packed city awoke to sunshine and warmth on Friday, after two days of paralyzing conditions, and Denver International Airport resumed operations for the first time since Wednesday. But the break in the weather did little to help the thousands of air travelers still stranded by this week's blizzard.
Only two of the airport's six runways were in use Friday afternoon, and United Airlines expected to operate only about a third of the normal schedule from its Denver hub, a spokeswoman said. Airport officials hoped to open two more runways Friday night.
Meanwhile, the process of rebooking several thousand flights at Denver International, the fourth-busiest airport in the country, was expected to continue through the weekend and possibly into Christmas Day.
The fact that the city was beginning to thaw out from Wednesday's blizzard, which dropped two feet of snow, was scant comfort to passengers such as Tonya Ortiz, whose scheduled two-hour layover turned into a three-day test of patience.
Ortiz arrived from Chicago early Wednesday morning, but her continuing flight to Phoenix was canceled, along with thousands of other incoming and outbound flights. She spent two nights sleeping on the floor near the baggage claim area.
"On the first night, I got up to walk around a little bit at about 2 o'clock in the morning, and it looked like that movie, the 'Night of the Living Dead,' " said Ortiz, who was still waiting Friday evening to get rebooked to Phoenix. "There were bodies everywhere, and bags were stacked up all over the place. It looked like a campsite."
Lines for ticket counters and security checkpoints snaked around the airport all day Friday, but people appeared to move efficiently. One traveler at the security checkpoint said it took approximately 45 minutes to get through the line.
Another stranded traveler was Katherine Manning, a student at the University of Colorado, who was hoping to catch an afternoon flight home to Nashville with her 14-month-old German shepherd, Holly.
Manning made it to the ticket counter in time for her flight, but she was told it was too late to board her dog. The two moved to a wall near the baggage claim area, Holly obediently sitting next to her owner and watching the flood of people passing her with a look of curiosity.
"I'm not leaving my dog, so if I can't get another flight, I guess I'll just go back to Boulder," Manning said.
Most roads in the Denver area were relatively clear by Friday morning, allowing the city's public transportation system to start running again. Downtown businesses that were closed Wednesday and Thursday reopened.
One of the city's biggest problems, apart from the airport, was clearing snow-packed highways and streets filled with abandoned vehicles.