Bad weather crimping holiday travel plans

Frank Sieple pushed his 6-year-old twin sons up and down the corridor of Terminal 1 at SFO in a baggage cart for five hours Monday, hoping to catch a flight to Long Beach.

The trio were scheduled to leave San Francisco International Airport at 10 a.m. to board a five-day Mexican Riviera cruise for Christmas, but weather-related delays hampered their plans and those of thousands of others hoping to travel for the holiday.

“I don’t even remember which airlines we’ve tried anymore,” Sieple said of his family’s quest to find another flight. “I keep buying a new flight, then it gets delayed, so I get a refund and go try another one.”

An estimated 11.6 million Californians are expected to travel more than 10 miles for the holidays, according to AAA Northern California. Roughly 10.6 million people are expected to drive to their destinations.

But those traveling by air are facing hours of delays at airports rather than the smooth skies they hoped for.

With only four days till Christmas, bad weather throughout the country has played a major part in the delays — and conditions are only expected to worsen.

In San Francisco, rain and thunderstorms are forecast through Wednesday night. In New England, a nor’easter — a ferocious winter storm that brings heavy rain or snow and strong winds — is expected to continue through Thursday morning.

SFO spokesman Mike McCarron said if the weather does what it is forecast to do, delays will only become longer.

“Bring a good book,” McCarron said, “even if you’re going to Hawaii. Your plane could be coming from New York or Chicago. It could be delayed getting here.”

At the beginning of the busy travel week, throngs of wayward travelers lined the airport corridors near ticket counters hoping to be one of the lucky few to book a flight.

Planes destined for San Francisco were delayed for up to two hours. Many international flights were canceled.

Julian Ramette, 28, was hoping to board any flight headed to Europe. He had extended his 10-day business trip in The City by three days in order to go sightseeing.

However, that decision forced him to spend the past 48 hours at the airport trying to return home to Leon, France. All flights to London were canceled because of the extreme weather.

“I should’ve left Thursday,” he said. “I just want to get to Barcelona or Rome and I can get home.”

Brace for thunder, lots of rain

A soggy week will make Bay Area travel especially difficult this Christmas as rain, thunderstorms and hail could delay flights and clog roads.

Rain, rain and more rain is expected in the region for most of the week, according to the National Weather Service. The City will likely be drenched through Wednesday evening.

A break will come Thursday when precipitation is not expected, but the sky will remain mostly cloudy.

Another storm, which will bring — you guessed it — more rain, will arrive by Friday and stay through the weekend. That system could deliver up to 3 inches of precipitation in The City, according to the weather service.

Some travel has already been affected at San Francisco International Airport, with delays of more than two hours reported Monday afternoon.

Today, the weather service predicts thunderstorms will occur in much of the Bay Area and could bring hail in some spots. San Francisco, though, should remain fairly warm, with temperatures staying around 56 or 57 degrees much of the week.

Because of the storms, a hazardous-weather outlook was issued Monday for the entire Bay Area to warn travelers and those staying home this Christmas of the wet conditions.

Winds could reach 20 mph, according to the weather service. — Andrea Koskey

Travel tips

– Check with airlines for delays before arriving at the airport
– Arrive 90 minutes prior to scheduled departure
– Bring extra cash to check bags on most airlines
– Download the “FlySFO” app for the iPhone for up-to-the-minute flight information

Source: San Francisco International Airport

Know before you go

– Airport parking: $14 a day long term; $20 a day at terminal
– Average off-airport parking: As much as $11 a day
– BART from San Francisco: $16.20 round trip
– Shuttle services: As much as $17 a passenger

Sources: SFO, Park N Fly, BART, San Francisco Airport Shuttle

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