WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of flights were canceled Thursday at the three airports serving the Washington and Baltimore areas as a result of a major winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the region.
Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports closed early Thursday. Runways at Dulles reopened at 12:40 p.m., allowing flights from Europe to make their scheduled afternoon arrivals, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said. At Reagan National, the runways were still closed at 4 p.m., although the terminal was open.
On a normal day, there are about 840 flights at Reagan National and 750 at Dulles.
The last flight to arrive at Dulles before the closure was from Johannesburg, South Africa, around 6 a.m. There were no arrivals Thursday morning at Ronald Reagan, which is not usually operational during the overnight hours.
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport remained open throughout the storm, and the runways were cleared of all snow before noon, but spokesman Jonathan Dean said all but a handful of flights had been canceled as of late Thursday morning.
Reagan National was virtually silent, with flights canceled and most vendors closed for business. People passed time on black chairs, or even tried to doze on vents, while waiting for flights that they knew had little chance of being on time. One vendor at an airport arts boutique spent the night in a green sleeping bag in the shop because, she said, customers expect businesses to stay open.
Robin Church, 59, of Washington, was trying to land a standby seat to Florida with her husband so that they could catch a blues festival in Clearwater. She said she and her husband, an airline pilot, thought it was best to arrive at the airport early in the morning in hopes that other passengers would be no-shows and they could take an earlier flight. But she said they were prepared that they might not make it out until later in the afternoon.
"It's an adventure," said Church, a patient care technician.
Rob Wolcott, 33, of Washington, and his wife were trying to reach St. Kitts for a friend's wedding on Saturday at which he was supposed to officiate. They were scrambling to find alternate ways south after an earlier flight got canceled. The couple was contemplating driving to Charlotte but "driving in a sleet storm is also not high on our to-do list," said Wolcott's wife, Maureen McGough.
The flight disruptions were especially disheartening given that the couple had planned the trip for months and that Wolcott had a special role at the nuptials.
"They're a little stressed," Wolcott said of the reaction of the future bride and groom. "They're a little less than thrilled with what's going on, but they'll figure something out. They will still get married whether or not I am the one to do the actual officiating."
At Dulles, Stephanie Seely of Lynchburg, Va., was among the passengers waiting for the airport to reopen. She's moving to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and her last taste of mid-Atlantic winter weather was a harrowing cab ride to the airport. The driver lost his front bumper on the way, she said.
"My husband's been there for about a month," Seely said. "We just shipped my dogs last night before the weather hit. So I need to be there to pick them up. They're in the cargo area right now."
Associated Press writer Ben Nuckols in Burke, Va., and AP videojournalist Alex Sanz in Chantilly, Va., contributed to this report.