Thousands of passengers have been stranded at the Denver International Airport as power outages on the West Coast, widespread road closures and huge pileups on icy roads, add to the mix of travel chaos for millions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
A storm packing heavy snow and high winds that wreaked havoc as it whipped through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska is marching into the upper Midwest as anxious Thanksgiving travelers brace for a busy, if not perilous, week.
Simultaneously, a second storm hit the West Coast on Tuesday causing a power outage at one of Northern California’s airport. The National Weather Service (NWS) described the second storm as ‘historic’ and said it could rival the strength of a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 74mph in southwest Oregon and northwest California.
Oakland International Airport lost power for about 90 minutes Tuesday evening, shutting down its security checks and causing some flight delays and a couple of diversions. Angry passengers shared on social media that the Oakland airport was ‘running on minimal power’.
One user tweeted: ‘Security lines are extended out the door, luggage turnstiles not working. It’s a complete mess.’
It’s unclear what caused the outage but it came as thousands of people in Oakland and further south lost power during the storm.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a ground delay at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday because of the weather, cutting the number of arrivals in half. The airport reported several hundred delayed flights and about two dozen cancellations.
But the majority of the flight delays and cancellations reported on Tuesday were at the Denver International Airport as one of the storms dumped more than a foot of snow in northern Colorado. At the Denver airport, about 10 inches of snow mixed with winds that limited visibility prompted the cancellation of about 30 per cent of the airport´s average daily 1,600 flights.
Thousands of passengers have been stranded at the Denver International Airport (pictured) as power outages, widespread road closures and huge pileups on icy roads, add to the mix of travel chaos for millions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. A total of 491 flights in and out of the Denver airport were canceled as more than 700 flights were delayed
An American Airlines flight lands at Denver International Airport where flights were delayed or rescheduled due to the winter storm that blanketed the city in snow
Simultaneously, a second storm hit the West Coast on Tuesday causing a power outage at the Oakland International Airport (passengers pictured in the dark on Tuesday)
Oakland International Airport lost power for about 90 minutes Tuesday evening, shutting down its security checks and causing some flight delays and a couple of diversions. Passengers are seen at the airport on Tuesday following the outage
Angry passengers shared on social media that the Oakland airport was ‘running on minimal power’. One user tweeted (above): ‘Security lines are extended out the door, luggage turnstiles not working. It’s a complete mess’
A total of 491 flights in and out of the Denver airport were canceled as more than 700 flights were delayed.
Southwest Airlines also canceled about 200 flights. Spokesman Brad Hawkins said it would take ‘a couple of days’ to get stranded passengers on other flights because there are few during the pre-Thanksgiving travel crush. That makes it hard for airlines to rebook passengers.
About 1,100 people spent the night at the airport, including many cadets from the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs who either missed flights or wanted to get to the airport before road conditions deteriorated, airport spokeswoman Alex Renteria said.
Among them was cadet Sadie Luhman, whose trip to the airport took three hours – twice the normal driving time. She got to the airport at 1am, 10 hours before her scheduled flight to Chicago for Thanksgiving.
‘I just wanted to beat the storm. We kind of left in the middle of it so it kind of didn’t work, but we got here,’ she told KCNC-TV.
Airport workers handed out blankets, diapers, baby formula, toothbrushes and toothpaste to passengers who camped out on floors and in chairs.
The snow and slippery roads caused a more than 60-car pileup along Interstate 90 near Spokane, Washington.
The snow and slippery roads caused a more than 60-car pileup along Interstate 90 near Spokane, Washington (pictured on Tuesday)
At least six people were injured after the vehicles crashed (pictured on Tuesday) down the icy highway, according to the Washington Department of Transportation, which subsequently shut down I-90
Authorities said the six wounded people had non-life threatening injuries and were treated at a local hospital. This photo shows the travel chaos along Interstate 90 following the pileup
According to the NWS branch in Washington state, a fast hitting snow squall snarled traffic (left and right, on Tuesday) in the area, bringing more than half an inch of snowfall within 25 minutes
At least six people were injured after the vehicles crashed down the icy highway, according to the Washington Department of Transportation, which subsequently shut down I-90.
Authorities said the six wounded people had non-life threatening injuries and were treated at a local hospital.
According to the NWS branch in Washington state, a fast hitting snow squall snarled traffic in the area, bringing more than half an inch of snowfall within 25 minutes.
One person was killed, and two others were injured in a multi-vehicle crash in Colorado.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler said a tractor-trailer jackknifed and was hit by two other semi-trucks and a pickup on Interstate 70 near Vail early Tuesday. One of the truck’s fuel tanks burst. A hazardous-materials team was called in to clean up the leaking fuel.
Authorities said roads in the area were warm when the snow started falling, creating icy conditions as the storm strengthened.
According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, more than 200 miles of Interstate 80 had to be closed due to the heavy snow.
Drivers in Wyoming and Nebraska are dealing with black ice, blowing snow and reduced visibility. The storm dumped nearly 3 feet of snow in parts of northern Colorado and closed long stretches of highways there and in Wyoming.
The map above shows expected snowfall nationwide from Tuesday morning through Thursday evening
A strong storm dropped more than a foot of snow in parts of Colorado and Wyoming and prompted airlines to issue travel alerts Tuesday as the NWS warned of possible blizzards and wintry conditions from Colorado to Michigan
Another major storm is expected to descend on the West Coast over Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing ‘bomb cyclone’ conditions with over two feet of snow to the mountains in the Northwest and possible flash flooding in Southern California
Minnesotans are preparing for a winter-like blast that’s expected to deliver heavy snow and powerful winds. Minneapolis could see more than six inches of snow into Wednesday, along with wind gusts of 35mph.
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus canceled classes starting late Tuesday and was not expected to resume operations until Thursday.
NWS meteorologist Brent Hewett in Chanhassen, Minnesota, said the storm could dump six inches of snow in central and southern Minnesota, while some areas could see 9 to 12 inches.
The storm was expected to dump snow on the airport in Minneapolis, where Delta Air Lines is the major carrier, but most was expected to fall overnight when few flights were scheduled.
Delta prepared by filling de-icing tanks, calling in extra flight dispatchers and operations employees, and having some of its 20 in-house meteorologists focus on the Minneapolis forecast.
‘The timing is very helpful,’ said Erik Snell, a Delta senior vice president who oversees operations. ‘It gives the airport time to clear the runways, although we’ll have to watch the residual snowfall in the morning.’
Western and northern Wisconsin could be buried beneath 8 to 12 inches of snow, with 12 to 15 inches of lake-effect snow near Lake Superior.
A raw, blustery day is forecast Wednesday, with winds up to 35mph. Forecasters said another storm could arrive this weekend, just as people are returning from Thanksgiving.
‘It’s one of those things, you couldn’t make it up if you tried,’ Hewett said of back-to-back storms falling around the holiday.
Many government offices closed in the Denver area and Cheyenne, Wyoming, along with colleges and schools not already on holiday break.
A home in Boulder, Colorado, is seen surrounded by several feet of powder on Tuesday morning
Nearly two feet of snow – some of it left over from previous snow, was reported in Boulder on Tuesday morning
The back porch at a home in Buffalo Creek, Colorado, located southwest of Denver, is seen covered in several feet of snow
Residents of Golden, Colorado, are seen tracking through waist-deep snow as the storm moved through Tuesday morning
Cars are seen buried under several feet of snow in a residential neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado, on Tuesday
In Nebraska, several school districts canceled classes Wednesday, and the southwestern city of Sidney had received about 8 inches of snow.
The storm system could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Organizers were preparing for the possibility of grounding the iconic balloon characters because of 40-50mph gusts in the forecast.
Rules put in place after several people were injured by a balloon years ago require lower altitudes or full removal if sustained winds exceed 23mph and gusts exceed 34mph. The decision will be made on parade day.
The second storm began hitting the West Coast in parts of California and Oregon. Multiple roads were closed in southern Oregon due to downed trees and power lines and blizzard-like driving conditions and others were reduced to a single lane, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.
The bomb cyclone – a rapid drop in air pressure – could bring waves of up to 35 feet, wind gusts of up to 75mph and heavy snow in the mountains.
Angela Smith said the Oceanfront Lodge, a hotel she manages in Crescent City, in far Northern California, lost power briefly during rain and strong winds. She said the hotel is ready to withstand heavy downpours.
‘It’s blowing pretty good outside but because we’re right on the coast, everything was built to ensure the safety of people,’ Smith said.
Forecasters warned of ‘difficult to impossible travel conditions’ across much of northern Arizona later this week as that storm dumps about 2 feet of snow.
The approaching storm accelerated the annual winter closure of the highway leading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon by five days.
Several hundred protesters demonstrated on Century Boulevard near the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, making the already-congested area worse for holiday travelers.
The protest forced police to close off westbound Century at Vicksburg, according to ABC 7. A total of 16 protesters were arrested for failure to disperse, police said.
According to the station, the ‘Raise LAX’ demonstrators were protesting for better wages and healthcare benefits for American Airline catering workers.
The leading edge of the first storm system moved into the Mississippi River Valley Tuesday night with the potential for damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes in parts of Illinois and Missouri.
It could bring another round of snow to the Upper Midwest from Thursday through Saturday, and a chance of snow this weekend in interior New England, according to NWS meteorologist Alex Lamers.
‘That could be a coast-to-coast storm,’ Lamers said.
The first storm is expected to move into the Plains later in the day, bringing high wind and more snow to Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan. Minneapolis could see more than six inches of snow into Wednesday, along with wind gusts of 35 mph
Record-low temperatures are expected in several major cities on Thanksgiving thanks to the first of the two storm systems
The second storm, brewing in the Pacific, is expected to hit the West Coast on Tuesday afternoon or evening, bringing snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the coasts of California and Oregon before moving inland by the weekend
Tuesday, November 26: Snowstorms are expected to hit the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountains as well as portions of the Great Plains. Rain is due in the Midwest and Mississippi Valley.
Wednesday, November 27: A storm bringing rain is expected to batter most of the East, the Great Lakes will be windy and gusty, the Upper Midwest will be snowy, and precipitation is expected in the West and Southwest.
Thursday, November 28: The West and the Great Plains will be blanketed by either rain or snow on Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 29: The massive storm system stretching from California through the Great Plains will move eastward.
Saturday, November 30: The storm continues to move east, this time dumping rain in the Midwest and Southeast. Parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are likely to see snowfall.
It also could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Organizers were preparing for the possibility that they’ll have to ground the iconic balloon characters, given 40-50 mph gusts in the forecast.
Rules put in place after several people were injured by a balloon years ago require lower altitudes or full removal if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph.
The decision will be made on parade day.
The Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan area could see its biggest November snowfall in nearly a decade, and travel is northwestern Wisconsin ‘is going to be chaotic’, said National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Hewett.
The Minneapolis airport could be hit, but Chicago, with its two big airports, should only see rain from the storm, weather service officials said.
The second storm, brewing in the Pacific, is expected to hit the West Coast on Tuesday afternoon or evening, bringing snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the coasts of California and Oregon.
Meterologists have warned that southern Oregon will likely see one of the coldest Thanksgiving Days on record following weeks of mild fall weather.
Dangerous winds from the gathering storm on Monday flipped a tractor-trailer, downed power lines and temporarily closed a stretch of US Highway 6 south of Yosemite National Park near Bishop, California.
That storm is expected to move inland by Thursday, crossing the US and landing on the East Coast by the end of the weekend.
A low pressure system will move into the West Coast beginning late Tuesday, bringing wet conditions through the weekend
Weather warnings are in effect across more than half of the country Tuesday morning, including major transport hubs such as Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago
The National Weather Service released the map above showing forecasted precipitation across the US through Thanksgiving
This month, AAA predicted that the number of travelers over a five-day stretch starting Wednesday will be the second-highest, behind only 2005, despite rising costs for a road trip.
At the start of the week, a gallon of regular cost $2.59, up three cents from a year ago, and rental cars averaged around $75 a day – their highest Thanksgiving price since AAA started keeping track in 1999.
Hotel rooms are a mixed bag, with prices falling from last year at highly rated hotels but rising slightly at midrange ones.
People might feel they can afford a trip because of low unemployment, rising household net worth, and the stock market´s continuing strength.
For those who are flying, the airlines expect traffic to be up about four percent from this time last year.
Wednesday is likely to see considerable delays in airports across the country
Thanksgiving Day is usually a light travel day for the airlines, but delays are still expected in the West as well as Texas
Most of the country will be blanketed by either rain or snow on the day after Thanksgiving, though the coastal regions are not forecast to be impacted by the weather
Saturday will also see substantial precipitation in much of the country
Rain and snow in the Northwest, Midwest, Northeast and the South could stall travel at the end of the holiday weekend
The arrivals board shows cancelled flights after a pre-Thanksgiving holiday snowstorm caused more than 460 flight cancellations at Denver International Airport on Tuesday
Airlines added about 850 flights and 108,000 seats per day on average to handle the increase over last year´s crowds, according to the trade group Airlines for America.
Airline travel before Thanksgiving tends to be spread out over several days, but most people want to go home on the Sunday or Monday after the holiday.
American Airlines plans to operate 7,046 flights Sunday, just one less than on August 8, its heaviest schedule this year.
In all, 22 of American’s 23 busiest days occurred during the summer vacation season, with this Sunday being the only exception.
A traffic camera captures the chaos in Northern California where cars and trucks were at a standstill as multiple cars spun out in heavy snowfall
Thanksgiving travel trouble: Unionized catering workers to stage protests at 16 major airports
Thousands of airline catering workers plan to stage protests at 16 of the busiest airports across the country on Tuesday as three million passengers are set to make an early jump on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
UNITE HERE, a labor union which represents 300,000 workers in the hotel, airports, gaming, and food service industries, says the protests are aimed at pressuring American Airlines to boost wages and provide health benefits.
The demonstrations are not expected to have an impact on flights.
Airline catering workers say that American, which reported $1.9billion in profits last year, is the target of protests because the company determines wages and conditions through subcontractors LSG Sky Chef and Gate Gourmet.
Sky Chef, which was once a subsidiary of American Airlines, was bought and merged into LSG Sky Chef in 2001.
UNITE HERE, a labor union representing airline catering workers, will stage demonstrations at 16 airports nationwide on Tuesday. The above image is an undated file photo of a previous protest in San Francisco
This past summer, three unions representing more than 25,000 catering workers who serve customers aboard American, Delta, and United flights voted overwhelmingly to strike.
But the unions are currently negotiating with the airlines through the National Mediation Board, a federal agency that must legally grant permission to UNITE HERE to strike.
UNITE HERE says that it will strike as soon as the agency releases it from mediation.
Last week, a union representing 2,700 caterers for United Air Lines voted unanimously to strike if ongoing negotiations fail.
D. Taylor, the president of UNITE HERE, told Forbes that the union doesn’t want to impact holiday travel.
Instead, he says the goal is to raise public awareness of the workers’ conditions.
‘We don’t want to affect customers,’ Taylor said.
‘We do want to get a message out. Our goal is to bring to light what’s going on with the plight of workers.
‘We’re trying to say that airline companies make billions and we want a piece of the American dream.’
Taylor said that even though American Airlines doesn’t directly employ catering workers, it has the power to improve wages and benefits.
‘You can’t take on every airline,’ Taylor said.
‘You have to deal with the largest. If American agrees that helps overall.’
The airline, for its part, says it is hopeful an agreement can be reached.
‘American Airlines respects and supports the rights of workers to join a union and bargain collectively – in fact, 84 per cent of our team members are represented by unions,’ American spokesperson Josh Freed said.
‘We believe in the collective bargaining process,’ Freed said.
‘We understand that a new contract will, ultimately, increase the costs to customers, including American.’
The union is demanding that American Airlines force subcontractors Gate Gourmet and LSG Sky Chefs to improve worker conditions by raising wages and providing health care benefits. American Airlines planes are seen above at Miami International Airport in 2014
Reps for Gate Gourmet and LSG Sky Chefs said that while progress is being made in federally mediated talks, they criticized the union’s tactics.
‘We have talks scheduled in December and expect to reach a fair and competitive agreement at some point through continued federal mediation, as we have in the past,’ said Gate Gourmet spokeswoman Nancy Jewell.
‘Gate Gourmet has made significant improvements for our people in wages and benefits across the US,’ Jewell said.
‘We are disappointed by the union’s unreasonable and unaffordable demands for wage increases and medical benefits which hinder the long-term sustainability of our industry, create unrealistic expectations and delay progress.’
A spokesperson for LSG Sky Chefs told Forbes: ‘Our negotiating team and a federal mediator have been working since May 2019 to negotiate in good faith with the union representing our employees.
‘Our company has offered improvements in wages and is discussing numerous other issues covered by our collective bargaining agreement.
‘We feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator.
‘We remain committed to negotiating in good faith, and we hope that union members will act lawfully as they exercise their right to demonstrate or protest.’
UNITE HERE says that between 200 and 1,000 workers will be protesting at airports in 16 US cities on Tuesday.
They will stage sit-ins, marches, pickets, and die-ins in Charlotte Douglas International Airport; Chicago-O’Hare; Dallas-Fort Worth; Denver International; Detroit Wayne International; Inouye Airport in Honolulu; Houston Bush; Los Angeles International; Miami International; Minneapolis International; Kennedy Airport in New York; Philadelphia International; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle-Tacoma; and Washington Reagan.
UNITE HERE says that out of 4,100 Sky Chefs serving American Airlines at the company’s hubs, 30 per cent are uninsured while 35 per cent need government-subsidized health care for themselves or their children.
Reporting by Ariel Zilber for DailyMail.com