RENO, Nev. – Hundreds of stranded passengers awaited flights out of Reno-Tahoe International Airport (search) on Sunday, a day after a snowstorm and an equipment malfunction forced dozens of flights to be canceled or delayed.
About 2,000 people were unable to book flights out of the city until Monday or Tuesday because most flights were already full on the airport's busiest day of the year, airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said.
The airport traditionally handles 11,000 passengers on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
"It couldn't have happened at a worse time of the year," Kulpin said. "You're talking about people who have to get back to work and people who have to get back to family."
At nearby Lake Tahoe (search) and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada (search), a winter storm system that moved in from the Northwest dumped up to 18 inches of snow, delaying thousands of Thanksgiving holiday motorists heading over mountain passes.
At the airport, 41 departures were canceled or delayed during a seven-hour period Saturday after a malfunction in the airport's instrument landing system. Twenty-eight arrivals also were affected.
The Federal Aviation Administration repaired the equipment after the storm left up to 6 inches of snow in Reno and 18 inches at nearby Lake Tahoe. Pilots are guided by the system when visibility is poor.
More than 4,000 passengers in all were affected by the equipment breakdown, airport officials said.
The storm system moved into the western United States from Alaska, bringing snow and rain. In central California, where the National Weather Service issued an advisory for an expected hard freeze, officials said two people died Saturday in storm-related accidents.
In San Diego County, two hikers, including one with a broken leg, were rescued by helicopter Sunday morning in the Santa Rosa Mountains near Borrego Springs, a sheriff's dispatch supervisor said. High winds scuttled a rescue attempt Saturday, forcing the hikers to spend the night in the mountains.
The storm system dropped up to three feet of snow overnight in Colorado. It was not immediately clear whether snow played a role in a plane crash Sunday in Montrose that killed at least two people.
Fifteen inches of snow fell in Wyoming and about 8 inches fell in southeastern Nebraska, officials said.