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Bitter cold leads to thousands of flight cancellations and delays in Milwaukee, Chicago

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MILWAUKEE — More than 4,000 flights were canceled at Chicago’s two international airports amid a deep freeze that brought record cold temperatures to the Midwest, and there were dozens of cancellations at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee as well.

FOX6’s cameras captured some travelers who ended up spending the night at the airport. A Mitchell Airport spokesman said the airplanes themselves could handle the bitter cold, but it was the employees that were the concern. Officials were limiting the time parking employees had to spend outside.

Dave Miller

“When you consider the gate agents, the baggage handlers and the fuelers, the flight crew who has to do a walkaround of the airplane to inspect it, there’s probably a dozen or more for each flight that are looking over the details of that flight. When you multiply that by over 100 departures at the airport in a day, that’s a lot of time outside,” said Harold Mester, airport spokesman.

“Basically all day (Wednesday) I sat on my phone trying to figure out where else I could fly out of. From O’Hare, somewhere. It was probably from 9 o’clock on (Wednesday) morning trying to figure something out,” said Dave Miller, flying to Florida.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Flight tracking website FlightAware showed close to 3,300 flights in and out of O’Hare Airport and more than 850 at Midway Airport were canceled between Tuesday morning, Jan. 29 and Thursday afternoon. That’s more than half of the scheduled flights for Wednesday and Thursday.

Joseph Schwieterman is a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago. Schwieterman said operations should be back to normal by midday Saturday unless snow forecast for Thursday night complicates matters further.

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