Midwest Blizzard Threatens Christmas Traveler Chaos

Winter storms in the Midwest are threatening to make Christmas travel a nightmare for some folks who just want to get home for the holidays.

AirTran, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, United and several other airlines offered travelers a one-time chance to rebook their tickets for travel to the affected areas to another day. But that was little relief to travelers who just wanted to get home for their Christmas dinner.

So far Thursday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration did not report many major delays at the nation's airports. Houston had some delays thanks to thunderstorms and Charlotte had some high winds. Later on in the day, bad weather caused some delays in Dallas.

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To see up-to-the-minute information about the status of your airport, visit the Web site for the FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center's map of the nation and delays at key airports.

But the storms have already done their damage, with airlines trying to re-accommodate passengers from flights canceled yesterday. For instance, at Chicago's O'Hare international airport, there were more than 200 cancellations Wednesday with another 60 across town at Midway.

This comes just as the East Coast is recovering from a record snowfall last weekend.

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Those on the roads won't expect much relief either. Snow, freezing rain and heavy thunderstorms are going to make it slow going for millions of motorists.

The biggest accumulations of snow were expected from eastern Nebraska to the Upper Mississippi Valley. Freezing rain was possible across parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and heavy thunderstorms could produce flooding across Texas and into the Ohio Valley.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings early Thursday for Kansas, western North Dakota, northern Minnesota, northwestern Nebraska and the Texas Panhandle. It cautioned that travel would be extremely dangerous in those areas through the weekend and that anyone taking to the road should pack a winter survival kit including flashlight and water in case of emergency.

Travelers should take extra time, also pack some snacks and a little bit of extra patience.

More Travelers Head Home for Christmas

More people will be on the road this year, heading out for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, and they'll likely be paying more money to head home -- or wherever else -- for the holidays.

AAA projects that 87.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the year-end holidays, a 3.8 percent increase from last year.

Like most holidays, the overwhelming majority -- about 77.7 million people -- will travel by car. Another 4.2 million will take to the skies, and everybody else will take trains, buses or boats to see their loved ones or just escape from home.

The bad news for all those drivers: the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline now stands at $2.60. That's still down from the record prices the country saw in the summer of 2008 but 94 cents higher than last Christmas. That's about an extra $12 for a family driving 400 miles in a typical sedan.

Prices for car rentals and airfare are also up about 2 percent, according to AAA, while hotel rooms are down about 6 to 10 percent on average for mid-range hotels.

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