Risk of Winter Weather Delays Eyed at Area Airports

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008; 1:51 PM

Airline and airport officials are eyeing weather conditions in the Midwest this afternoon as Christmas travelers prepare to leave the Washington area.

Worsening weather in the Chicago and Detroit areas could affect Washington travelers making connections, although the region's three airports report almost no delays or problems so far.

"Things are running smoothly today," said Rob Yingling, spokesman for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs Dulles International and Reagan National airports. But he said if weather conditions worsen elsewhere, causing delays in the Washington area, airports can ask concessionaires to stay open later and have blankets on hand for those who to have to spend the night.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the Midwest and Great Lakes region. In Chicago, daytime snow accumulation is projected to be up to four inches. Tonight, snow is predicted to turn into sleet.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is a hub for the United and American airlines; Detroit Metro Airport is a hub for Northwest Airlines; and Pittsburgh International Airport is a hub for US Airways. Many flights leaving the Washington area go through those areas, which could lead to a cascade of delayed or canceled flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting that flights to O'Hare and Chicago-Midway might be delayed at their departure points.

At Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, spokesman Jonathan Deane reported few delays and lots of parking space, thanks to a $1.4 billion expansion completed in 2006 that created a capacity of nearly 30,000 vehicles. Plenty of parking is also available at Dulles and National, according to Yingling.

Travel over the Christmas and New Years holidays is more spread out than during other busy periods, such as Thanksgiving. At National, the busiest days are expected to be today and tomorrow. At Dulles, the busiest day is projected to be Friday, according to Yingling.

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