Flight cancellations that shattered vacation travel plans for millions of Americans continued on Monday as storms in the western United States deepened the chaos.
Major airlines blamed the disruption on the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus – the 10,000 flights canceled around the world over the Christmas weekend.
During this time, parts of the American West faced the brutal realities of winter. In northwestern Nevada, for example, whiteout conditions prompted a 20-vehicle pile-up on Sunday, officials said.
Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska and other leading airlines have blamed Covid-19 infections and the highly transmissible variant of omicron for travel problems. The flight crews were skinny, as many employees reported sick.
In a statement on Sunday, Delta said “winter weather in parts of the United States and the omicron variant” was wreaking havoc on the airline’s holiday weekend flight schedule.
Of 4,155 main and connecting flights scheduled for Sunday, Delta said it canceled 161, with about 40 more cancellations scheduled for the day.
JetBlue said it had around 110 cancellations on Sunday, and the number is expected to potentially increase depending on crew availability.
“We have seen a growing number of omicron disease calls,” the airline said, adding that it has entered the holiday season with the highest staffing levels since the start of the pandemic.
“Despite our best efforts, we have had to cancel a number of flights, and additional flight cancellations and other delays are still possible.”
As of Monday morning, nearly 2,000 other flights around the world were canceled for the day, with at least 629 of those flights expected to have flown within, to or from the United States, according to FlightAware.
The cancellations come as many people around the world are likely to try to return home after visiting loved ones over Christmas weekend.
They also come after more than 130,000 new cases of Covid were reported in the United States alone on Sunday, according to data compiled by NBC News. However, interruptions during the testing and data reporting holidays could have affected the count.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not update their Covid tracker over the weekend, but it is expected to resume publishing data later Monday.
President Joe Biden told governors in a video call Monday that the United States is ready to respond to the increase in cases of the omicron variant and reiterated that there is no need to panic.
“It’s not like March 2020 at the start of the pandemic,” Biden told governors. “We are prepared and we know what it takes to save lives, protect people and keep schools and businesses open. We just need to stay focused and keep working together.”
As omicron wreaks havoc with Christmas travel plans across the country and around the world, winter storms in the western United States have also caused chaos.
More than 20 vehicles were involved in a crash in northwestern Nevada, with drivers reporting whiteout conditions, the sheriff’s office said.
In a separate statement, the Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue said at least three people were taken to hospital following the pile-up.
“Conditions are extreme in the Washoe Valley with 50 mph winds and whiteout conditions,” he said in a Twitter post.
The California Highway Patrol in Truckee has said Interstate 80 is closed from the Nevada state border to Colfax, California in both directions.
He later shared a video of the dangerous driving conditions, claiming his officers “were having trouble finding the road.”
The National Weather Service office in Reno warned in a tweet that it was “the type of day to stay home if you can.”
On Monday, a storm duo was expected to see heavy snowfall continuing over parts of the West Coast and Intermountain West mountain ranges, according to the weather service.
While a storm is expected to weaken by Monday evening, the next system already causing heavy mountain snowfall is expected to traverse the intermountain west overnight and through Tuesday morning with the Sierra Nevada expected to reach a total. of 3 feet of snow. at the highest altitudes.
The storms are also expected to bring record cold weather to parts of the West Coast, with snowfall also expected in the Upper Midwest and a “freezing winter mix” expected to hit the central Great Lakes and northern central Great Lakes. Atlantic, the weather service said.
“Travel delays due to ice are possible in these regions, both on the ground and in the air,” he warned.
Record-breaking temperatures could also be possible along the west coast on Monday, the weather service said.
As the west faces snow and icy conditions, the south could experience record high temperatures over the next few days as the region continues to experience a heat wave during the holidays.
Daniel arkin and Shannon Pettypiece contributed.