Flights into and out of some major airports stopped Monday as strong summer storms pummeled cities up and down the East Coast. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, D.C.’s Reagan National and all three major New York-area airports were among those with so-called “ground stops”, preventing flights from taking off or landing amid wind gusts in excess of 60 miles per hour in some places.
As of Monday evening, airlines had delayed some 7,500 flights and canceled upwards of 1,500 more at U.S. airports. All of it, experts say, is a sign of things to come in a changing climate with more intense storms.
“You have more warmth and you have more energy and you have more potential for what we call thunderstorms or organized thunderstorms,” said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “You also can make the case we have more potential for stronger, deeper, more powerful hurricanes as well, if and when they form, because we’re not just talking about land that’s warmer than average like we had in July, but we’re talking about oceans that are warmer than average beyond just July, extending you know, years back.”
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At the FAA’s command center, meteorologists tracked storms Monday impacting some of the most critical operations for the country’s biggest airlines.
“These [storms] will affect the terminals particularly around the D.C. area as far south as the areas around Atlanta and Charlotte,” said Roland Nuñez, one of the FAA’s meteorologists, on Monday.
Forecasters expect more storms in places like Washington, D.C., Atlanta and New York on Thursday, meaning more disruptions could come just as airlines get back on track from Monday’s mayhem. Tardy thinks the onslaught of summer storms is a good sign to airlines that it’s time to rethink summer travel.
“Perhaps, you know, stacking up aircraft at 2:00 in the afternoon, which is the normal peak in thunderstorm activity is not the best approach,” he said. “Maybe traveling more on the red-eye flight is better in the summer.”
Some airlines were offering passengers the opportunity to rebook flights for free if they were impacted by weather. Federal law requires airlines to refund passengers if a flight is canceled for any reason, should that passenger choose not to travel.
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