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Storm interrupts flights, strands passengers in Charlotte

Private David Dorman took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles late Tuesday with about 30 other Marines and landed at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Wednesday morning, when he got some unwelcome news.

The Marines were going to be stuck in Charlotte until about 7 a.m. Thursday before they could catch a flight to their final destination, Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville. So Dorman and fellow Marine Mitchell Buelow helped organize the Marines’ duffel bags into neat piles and planned to watch over them.

Despite the long flight, Dorman remained upbeat and untired.

“We’ve had sleep deprivation training and have been much more tired than we are now,” he said. “This is more mentally stressful.”

There were plenty of civilians who shared that stress at the airport.

Tuesday’s winter storm caused a major disruption of flight schedules in the Southeast, and the results played out Wednesday at Charlotte Douglas. Thousands of flights, mostly in and out of Atlanta and Houston, were affected by the snow, sleet and freezing rain.

On Tuesday, there were about 130 canceled departures at the Charlotte airport, officials said, with an additional 84 flights canceled as of midday Wednesday.

All runways and taxiways were clear of ice and snow as of midday, however. By that time, the airport had de-iced about 150 aircraft since Tuesday.

The airport remained open and operating, although one airline industry official said it could be several days before the backlog of passengers has been handled.

Airport employees distributed cots and mats to stranded passengers overnight Tuesday, city of Charlotte spokeswoman Kim McMillan said, and many of the airport’s restaurants remained open during the night.

Dealing with delays

Katt Allen had been stuck in Charlotte since Tuesday night, trying to go home to Atlanta from New York. She wound up staying with a friend of a friend in Charlotte on Tuesday night, and she didn’t think she would able to get out of the airport until 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Her immediate plans, she said: Find a drink.

Flight delays weren’t the only issue confronting people. David Baker of Winston-Salem spent about 35 minutes driving around the daily parking deck before he found a parking spot.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said.

Rockwell resident Dave Morris didn’t expect to encounter delays with his flight. He was bound for the Dominican Republic for his son’s wedding, and it took little prompting for Morris to note it was 85 degrees there.

Elsewhere in the airport, Jason Delsart sat quietly playing on his phone.

The Navy reservist had been called up for a three-week stint in Gulfport, Miss. But after he left his Green Bay, Wis., home, he spent two days stuck at the Dallas airport before he arrived in Charlotte around 9 Wednesday morning.

He was actually on another plane bound for Gulfport when it was canceled and all of the passengers had to get off and return to the Charlotte terminal. So Delsart was looking at spending 11 more hours waiting for a flight out.

He just smiled when asked about the less than 2 inches of snow that fell in the Charlotte area, and temperatures that dipped to 16 degrees Wednesday. In Green Bay this week, wind chills hit 35 degrees below zero.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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