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Tampa International Airport travelers take delays in stride as snow moves Northeast

TAMPA — Despite more than 50 canceled flights at Tampa International Airport, the atmosphere was calm and lines were short early Wednesday, the third consecutive day of weather-related flight cancellations.

Hugh Gallagher, 52, was at the airport two hours early for an 8:30 a.m. flight. He checked in and then realized his U.S. Airways flight Richmond, Va., had been canceled. The flight was rescheduled for 12:30 p.m.

He had few complaints, though. He had USA Today to read. He'd nap later, he said. His only wish was that someone would have called to let him know, as is usually the case.

"There's nothing you can do about the weather," he said.

Luckily, he was in no rush. He's a frequent flier who doesn't schedule important meetings around the time he's traveling, he said.

Most canceled flights at TIA were to and from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn., as heavy snow moved from the South to the Northeast. Some flights to Atlanta were scrubbed, but most were on time.

TIA wasn't crowded with passengers upset about delays because most people probably check the news or call their airlines, said Kelly Figley, airport spokeswoman. Flight delays were as short as 15 minutes or up to an hour.

Any vouchers or help with hotel stays would be given by individual airlines, Figley said.

"Right now, the weather's good here," Figley said. "They can stay with friends or relatives."

Only one of 90 canceled flights for AirTran Airways went through Tampa. Those flights were simply rescheduled, said Christopher White, AirTran spokesman.

By Tuesday evening, widespread flight cancellations moved from the South into the Northeast and Great Lakes ahead of the storm. More than 3,500 Tuesday flights were scrubbed, and at least 1,000 more were expected to be canceled Wednesday from Atlanta to Chicago to Boston.

Nearly every domestic flight at New York's three major airports through Wednesday afternoon — thousands of them — were scrubbed, according to the New York Times.

Snow started falling late Tuesday over the Northeast. By early Wednesday, 4.5 inches accumulated in Central Park, 3.7 inches at New Jersey's Newark airport, and 5.3 inches in Stamford, Conn.

Forecasters expected New York City and its suburbs to get an average of 9 inches and as much as 12 in some areas by the afternoon, with reduced visibility and wind gusts up to 35 mph. In New England, the National Weather Service predicted up to a foot across most of Connecticut and the Boston area.

The storm is the third to hit New York in less than three weeks, after the Dec. 26 blizzard dumped 29 inches of snow in parts of the city and last week's threat turned into just a 2-inch dusting.

In Boston, some 35,000 homes were without power early Wednesday and state police reported dozens of crashes, according to the Boston Globe. Snow will fall 2 to 3 inches an hour at the height of the blizzard and could total 16 inches or more in parts of the Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

In Atlanta, snow and ice continued to blanket the area, leaving major roads iced over and impassible, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The paper reports that ice will persist on many surface streets until temperatures climb and stay above freezing. That won't be until Friday afternoon, forecasters say.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Tampa International Airport travelers take delays in stride as snow moves Northeast 01/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 6:52pm]

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