MIAMI – Travelers heading to and from the Northeast faced continued uncertainty Tuesday, even as airports in the mid-Atlantic region began slowly digging themselves out from one of the worst winter storms on record.
Flights headed to points like Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Hartford, Conn., were filled to capacity, but airlines could not immediately meet the overwhelming crush of passengers who had been stranded at airports throughout Florida and as far away as California when the storm was at its peak Monday.
No flights left Florida for Baltimore-Washington International Airport until Tuesday afternoon. That airport was one of the hardest-hit by the storm, with a snowfall total of 28 inches.
Rosanna Blum, 38, of Hunt Valley, Md., had a confirmed seat on a Miami to Baltimore flight Tuesday afternoon, but still wasn't optimistic that she'd actually have the chance to use it.
"We have two children at home that we miss," said Blum, who was supposed to fly home with her husband after their cruise ended Sunday. "They're at my mom's. They're having a great time with the snow, but they miss us. We just want to get home."
It was a similar story for passengers stranded at BWI, where a glance at a row of computer monitors showed many flights still were canceled.
"It's surreal," said Dawn Shuford, 35, as she reclined against her suitcase in a darkened hallway at BWI. She'd been trying since Sunday morning to get home to Seattle.
"I'm usually at home reading about this happening to somebody else," she said.
The Washington area's two other airports, Reagan National and Dulles, also had limited service.
Philadelphia International Airport resumed operations Tuesday but still expected to cancel about one-third of its flights. Flights slowly resumed at New York's LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports, and Boston's Logan, where more than 2 feet of snow fell, had one runway open.
Thousands of flights were canceled Monday by the snowstorm.
Margie D'Onofrio, 48, of King Of Prussia, Pa., and a travel companion left the Bahamas on Sunday, hoping to fly back to Philadelphia. They made it to Miami, and D'Onofrio said she did not expect to be home anytime Tuesday.
"My office was closed Monday for a holiday but I had to use another vacation day today," D'Onofrio said as she stood at an AirTran ticket counter Tuesday morning. She lamented that she gets just 10 a year.
Airline officials urged passengers to be patient and warned that the delayed travel would continue into Wednesday.
"We are slowly moving through the Northeast but we don't have a timeframe on how long it will take," Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said. "Most of the airports are back to regular staffing levels."
American Airlines canceled 627 of its 2,400 scheduled flights on Monday, according to spokesman Todd Burke. American had resumed flying to the Northeast by Tuesday morning.
Passengers camped out overnight at many airports. Many fliers called ahead Tuesday and weren't clogging airports unnecessarily, Orlando International Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said.
Lisa De La Rionda, a spokeswoman at Palm Beach International airport, said passengers stranded there at least could console themselves with the sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures.
"It's a beautiful day in South Florida," she said.