The East Coast is facing frigid temperatures and blizzard-like conditions, thanks to a storm that's so intense, forecasters are calling it a "bomb cyclone." In addition to many other inconveniences, Winter Storm Grayson has affected flights in a serious way, with thousands canceled or delayed, resulting in major issues for travelers across the country.
The flight-tracking website Flight Aware reports that on Thursday, 4,320 flights in or out of the United States were canceled and an additional 2,363 delayed. According to USA Today, around around 27,000 flights were scheduled to or from the country on Thursday, meaning that Grayson has affected nearly 25 percent of all U.S. flights.
This affected people throughout the United States and the world, but the New York and Boston areas were hit especially hard: Around 700 flights were canceled at Logan International Airport due to the storm, according to CBS Boston, and JFK International Airport suspended all flights at around 11 a.m. ET due to whiteout conditions. An hour later, LaGuardia suspended all of its flights as well, according to USA Today. As of this writing, 1,041 flights in or out of Newark International Airport have also been canceled.
It's not just the northeast, however: Half of all flights scheduled to leave or arrive in Charleston, South Carolina, were also canceled on Thursday, according to Condé Naste Traveler. And because many of these flights were scheduled to arrive or depart from international airports, travelers across the globe have been impacted by the cancellations, too.
“This is not a normal snowstorm,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who declared a state of emergency on account of the storm, at a press conference Thursday. “It is snow plus very high gusts of wind, and that changes the situation dramatically.”
JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark all hope to resume flights by Thursday evening. However, air travel will likely be hobbled for days as a result of the storm. According to Flight Aware, 930 U.S. flights scheduled for Friday have already been canceled. So have 12 flights that would have taken off on Saturday, and those numbers could easily increase over the next few days, depending on how the storm's conditions progress.
"The issue impacting operations at the moment is the ability to plow snow fast enough," Sara Orsi, senior marking manager for FlightAware, told USA Today. "As the storm moves through, de-icing capacity will be a greater concern and will limit operations at airports along the East Coast."
Winter Storm Grayson began in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall on the Florida panhandle, and is now expected to bring as much as 18 inches of snow to some parts of the East Coast, according to CBS News. It brought snow to Tallahassee, Florida, for the first time in almost three decades and caused coastal flooding from Massachusetts to Maine. Forecasters predict that once the storm passes, temperatures could drop even further, potentially hitting minus 40 degrees over the weekend. According to Newsweek, 12 people have died as a result of the storm.
“It’s an astronomical high tide, and then we’re adding a couple feet of storm surge,” Chris Miller, the harbormaster in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, told the New York Times. “This storm happens to be hitting when the tides are extremely high.” Storm surge is what happens when a storm "pushes" ocean water toward a coastline as it approaches, resulting in higher water levels and, in some cases, flooding.
In response to the inevitable frustration from customers, several major airlines are offering travel waivers to passengers whose flights were canceled due to the storm. The eligibility is different from airline to airline, but in general, waivers are being offered to certain travelers whose flights were canceled between Wednesday and Friday.