Weather leaves passengers waiting at SF airport

As stranded travelers thaw out from the blizzard that froze the East Coast and closed three major airports, San Francisco is preparing for weather-related flight delays and cancellations of its own.

Though The City will not experience the extreme conditions that included 2 feet of snow and 60 mph winds along the eastern seaboard, heavy rains and fog starting today could make travel around San Francisco International Airport hectic.

“It will be pretty breezy,” National Weather Service forecaster Austin Cross said. “Not nearly as destructive as back East, but it could cause delays.”

Rain will re-enter San Francisco by 10 a.m. today and could drop as much as 2 inches in some urban areas by nightfall, according to Cross.

On Monday morning, though, SFO already had an average of 2½-hour delays because of dense fog.

Mike Treffehn, 26, and his fiancee, 25-year-old Jamie Burwell, were stranded in San Francisco for nearly seven hours Monday. They had to deal with weather-related issues in San Francisco and on the East Coast.

The couple had flown to Portland, Ore., for Christmas and was trying to return home to Philadelphia.

The fog that blanketed San Francisco Bay, though, diverted the first leg of their trip temporarily to San Jose. By the time they made it back to San Francisco, they had missed their connecting flight, Treffehn said.

Now, Treffehn and Burwell will not be able to fly till Wednesday morning because of the delays and rebooking by other travelers heading east.

“What can you do?” Treffehn said.

Burwell had an idea.

“We’re going out to dinner,” she said with a smile.

Anthony Meade was luckier.

The 21-year-old student, who was on the same flight from Portland, was able to secure a seat on the red eye to Boston that left Monday.

Once there, however, he needs to find a connection to his final destination, Newark International Airport in New Jersey, which closed because of the storm. John F. Kennedy International Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport also were closed Sunday and most of Monday.

“I was freaking out,” Meade said. “I need to catch a flight to France on Wednesday.”

United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines were most affected by the Northeast storm, which forced the cancellation of nearly 7,000 flights. An estimated 33 flights were canceled out of San Francisco.

Airlines now must help travelers nationwide find room on a limited number of flights.

In the best of times, it might take airlines two or three days to accommodate those travelers. But this week could prove more challenging. Planes were expected to be about 90 percent full during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, leaving fewer available seats than usual.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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