UPDATED 08/29/11 10:46 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Hurricane Irene has stranded nearly 700,000 air travelers at airports across the country, and now, frustrated passengers – including many at O’Hare International Airport – must wait to be re-booked on flights.
As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, as early as of 5 a.m., a long line had formed outside the American Airlines terminal as flights to Washington, D.C.; Boston; Philadelphia and New York got underway.
At O’Hare Monday morning, airlines said it would take all day to smooth out the mess made by Irene, and maybe in some cases a few days.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
The weather is good, and the flight screen shows all flights to the East Coast are ready to go. But the reality is hundreds of flights were canceled at O’Hare and Midway International Airport over the weekend, and all those passengers are looking to get out.
More than 500 flights were cancelled at O’Hare on Saturday and Sunday and about 100 were cancelled at Midway on Saturday and Sunday, leaving possibly thousands of passengers who still need to get out of town.
“I was flying in from London, then I got stuck. I was supposed to go to New York, but I had to go to Chicago,” one traveler said. “I got here Saturday morning. I’m ready to go; ready to go to work.”
One United Airlines worker at O’Hare told WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner the day would be frustrating for passengers, and for her, as she tries to navigate travelers and keep her cool.
Around the country, 11,000 flights were called off over the weekend.
Only a lucky few made it home from New York.
“It was scary to be in the upper floor of a high-rise hotel. I was worried windows might blow out, so I was up all night long watching for the windows,” said air passenger Debra Alexander. “But being from Chicago it was like, this is nothing! I’m from the Windy City! This is nothing!”
In New York, subways were shut down, and rail lines were covered by downed power lines and mudslides. Thus, it was no surprise that the airport became a campground for stranded passengers there.
“I was supposed to be flying back to Chicago tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., and that’s canceled, so my next flight home is Wednesday morning,” a woman said.
The ripple effect was felt from Florida all the way to Las Vegas, leaving passengers scrambling to rebook.
“I came to Las Vegas, had a great time. Hurricane Irene done us wrong,” said air passenger Rick Waddle.
On Monday, with New York airports re-opening, the backlog of flights gets moving. But it will take time, and lots of patience.
The first scheduled flight to New York City was at 6 a.m., but it will be some time before any flights from New York arrive in Chicago.