Memorial Day travel: East Coast storms delay plans

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Severe storms swept through the Washington area and along parts of the East Coast on Friday, upending the travel plans of people heading out for Memorial Day weekend getaways.

Delays and cancellations have been reported at airports in the North East. In the DC area, the Federal Aviation Administration reported significant delays — in some cases an hour or more — for flights departing Baltimore-Washington International Marshall, Reagan National and Dulles International airports as the storms moved in.

The FAA also issued ground stops limiting air traffic to BWI and National. The agency later lifted those restrictions, but significant delays remained.

With more storms expected on Friday, officials from the Maryland State Highway Administration urged people who plan to drive to reschedule their trip until Saturday when the weather is expected to improve.

Many of those who hit the road Friday saw their driving slowed by the weather. Those headed for east coast beaches encountered delays crossing the Bay Bridge after authorities in Maryland halted traffic in both directions due to windy conditions. Eastbound delays stretched for six miles.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch early Friday for much of the Washington area in the afternoon.

A line of storms that swept through the area between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. caused widely scattered tree damage and triggered multiple tornado warnings. However, no tornadoes have been confirmed, according to the Capital Weather Gang.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for those hoping to get away for the weekend.

Millions expected to travel this Memorial Day despite high gas, hotel and plane ticket prices

According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 1,000 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled by early Friday afternoon, while nearly 3,000 others were canceled. delayed. Among the hardest hit airports are Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and National airports. At National, about 85 flights were canceled — about 19% of those scheduled to depart on Friday — while 125, or 27%, were delayed, according to FlightAware.

By comparison, on Thursday, only 216 flights to, within and from the United States were canceled.

According to AAA estimates, 39.2 million people – 8% more than last year and 92% of pre-pandemic levels – are expected to travel during Memorial Day weekend, which many consider the unofficial start of the summer season. These estimates come despite higher costs for gasoline, airfare and hotels and a significant rise in coronavirus infections.

Compared to last year’s holiday weekend, AAA expects a 4.6% increase in car travel and a 25% increase in air travel.

Memorial Day weekend will be an early test of how airlines have prepared for the expected surge in travelers this summer and how quickly they can bounce back when the weather disrupts operations. Carriers have cut schedules while hoping to improve reliability, but fewer flights will also mean fewer seats to accommodate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.

First set of storms leave DC area, stronger evening surge possible

According to the Capital Weather Gang, a second round of storms is likely Friday evening. These storms could bring damaging winds, hail and a tornado or two. A flood watch is in effect until Friday evening.

Jason Samenow and A. Camden Walker contributed to this report.

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