WX: Snow, Winds Forecast for December 20 in Chicago

Snow Begins Falling at Chicago O'Hare

Snow Begins Falling at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Potential Disruptions at Chicago O’Hare and Midway – December 20, 2012

The airline industry is hitting turbulence today with the Midwest Winter Storm Draco.

Updates – December 20 – 1:15 US Eastern Time

UPDATE: Southwest Airlines Cancels ALL Chicago Midway (MDW) Flights after 5pm, Thursday, December 20.

UPDATE: FAA Ground Stop Program for Chicago O’Hare (ORD). If you’re scheduled to fly to O’Hare airport, the FAA is keeping most aircraft on the ground which have not already departed. High winds and rain have already snarled air traffic into O’Hare. Weather Conditions in Chicago are expected to go downhill after 4:00pm.

According to the FAA Delays are possible later today at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Houston Intercontinental (IAH) as a result of high winds. As the low pressure system moves east, winds are predicted to pick up on the east cost with an adverse impact at Newark (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), and Kennedy Airport (JFK) combined with an increased holiday flight volume.

Winter Storm Draco Wreaks Holiday Travel Chaos

As a blizzard associated with winter storm “Draco” impacts the Midwest, air travelers will be in for a turbulent day. Blizzard warnings span six states, including Iowa and Wisconsin where travel will come to a halt. Cities to be walloped include Des Moines (DSM), Green Bay (GRB), and Milwaukee (MKE). If holiday travels take you these parts of the Midwest, you’ll likely encounter cancelled or delayed flights.

While Chicago will likely miss the significant snows, it won’t be smooth sailing. The forecast calls for strong winds associated with a low pressure system, as well as a burst of snow on Thursday afternoon and Thursday evening. At this point, between one and four inches of white stuff are forecast for the Chicago area.

The winds alone will disrupt air traffic at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Chicago Midway (MDW) Airport. If you plan to travel through either of these airports tomorrow, December 20th, you’ll encounter hiccups associated with the winter storm. Sustained winds of 30 mph are likely and some wind gusts may exceed 50 mph. The high winds combined with low visibility when snow does fall will adversely impact airport operations.

At the moment, it appears the heavy snow line will be along the Illinois and Wisconsin state line. If the storm makes a shift south, the Chicago area will pick up more snow.

If weather conditions sour in Chicago and long-haul flights have trouble landing safely, diversions to other airports are possible if high winds or visibility prevent a specific flight from landing.

Winter Weather Waivers

United Airlines issued a waiver for the Midwest Winter Storm, Draco. Travelers scheduled to fly on December 19th or December 20th to/from or through Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CID), Des Moines (DSM), Grand Rapids (GRR), Madison (MSN), Milwaukee (MKE), Omaha (OMA), and Wichita (ICT) are covered.

Passengers on United traveling to/from or through these cities can make free same-day flight changes within 24 hours of original departure. Other changes are allowed with change fees waived, but a fare difference may apply. Travel must be completed one year from the date of issue on the ticket.

American Airlines also issued a winter weather waiver. American Airlines passengers scheduled to fly December 20th to December 21st to/from or through Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Cedar Rapids (CID), Wausau – Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA), Des Moines (DSM), Dubuque, Iowa (DBQ), Grand Island, Nebraska (GRI), Green Bay (GRB), La Cross, WI (LSE), Madison (MSN), Manhattan, KS (MHK), Marquette, MI (MQT), Milwaukee (MKE), Moline (MLI), Omaha (OMA), Rochester, MN (RST), Sioux City, IA (SUX), Traverse City, MI (TVC), and Waterloo, IA (ALO), may have their ticket re-issued with the change fee waived. However, you must book new travel on December 19 or December 22-25, 2012.

US Airways relaxed ticket change fees for flights to/from or through Denver (DEN), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Des Moines (DSM), Omaha (OMA), and Milwaukee (MKE) for those traveling December 19. US Airways winter travel waiver will allow passengers to change their ticket to fly on December 21, 22 or 23 at no additional cost. However, we suspect the relaxed policy will be updated to include travel on the 20th as that is when the storm will impact cities like Chicago and Milwaukee.

Delta Air Lines is also being proactive with a fee waiver in place for travel between December 19 and December 21, 2012. Customers on Delta with travel to/from or through airports in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will be able to book new flights without a change fee provided they’re ticketed and rescheduled for travel on or before December 28, 2012. The waiver includes flights through Delta’s hub at Detroit Metro Airport (DTW).

Southwest Airlines is expecting flight disruptions at Chicago Midway (MDW) and will cancel all flights after 5pm, December 20. Consumers flying to/from or through Chicago Midway (MDW) on December 20, and December 21, 2012, are eligible to re-schedule flights.

Adjustments have been made to Southwest flights at Des Moines (DSM) for December 19, and December 20th. Individuals scheduled to fly to/from Des Moines on December 19 and December 20, are eligible to re-schedule their flights. Customers with flights from/to/through Kansas City (MCI) or Omaha (OMA) on December 20th may also re-schedule.

Finally, Southwest Airlines passengers flying to/from or through Milwaukee (MKE) on December 20 and December 21, 2012, are also eligible to re-schedule. Individuals who re-schedule flights must do so in accordance with Southwest Airlines accommodation procedures.

United Airlines has an additional winter storm waiver in place for their hub at Denver International Airport (DEN) for today. Fees for same day flight changes will be waived provided the new flights are within 24 hours of the original departure time. Passengers may also change tickets for December 19 with the change fee waived, but any changes in the fare for the new travel date may be charged.

Most airlines will be proactive and cancel flights to minimize delays for flights that do operate. Typically international and other long-haul destinations are given priority for flights that do operate. Flights on the regional carriers which operate smaller jets are typically the first to be cut from the schedule.

When Air Traffic Control begins a flow control program to an impacted airport it’s usually shorter flights from destinations closer to the hub airport that are delayed first.

Other carriers are also issuing weather waivers; check with your airline for the specific details.

What if My Flight is Cancelled?

Image of Flights Cancelled and Delayed

Airport Departure Monitor During Bad Weather.

If your flight is cancelled, you do have the right to be re-ticketed free of cost on the next available flight, or if you desire not to travel, a full refund. Flights will be running near capacity and seats may be difficult to find on some routes.

If you’re in a position where you can make changes to your connecting point on United, consider traveling via Houston Intercontinental (IAH) or Washington Dulles (IAD).

Passengers on American Airlines will find the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) hub along with connections via Miami (MIA) as a good alternative to Chicago O’Hare (ORD).

While Dallas and Houston will be impacted by winds, conditions will be significantly better than Chicago.

Keep an eye on the Forecast

Regardless of your travel destination, we suggest you keep an eye on the forecast. Models are predicting another storm system to move across the midwest near Christmas and another system will move through around the new year. Timing is likely to change and precipitation type will depend on your location.

Once the current storm clears the Midwest, forecast models should come into better alignment for the next two weather systems.

Getting back to the Blizzard Warning, for Des Moines, the warning is in effect from 6pm tonight, December 19, 2012, through 6pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012. The city will be looking at 6 to 12 inches of snow, but with high winds visibilities will be significantly reduced. The blizzard warning spans across six states.

The National Weather Service (NWS) out of Des Moines issued this with their warning:

SNOW DRIFTS SEVERAL FEET DEEP WILL BE POSSIBLE GIVEN THE STRONG WINDS.

IMPACTS…LIFE-THREATENING BLIZZARD CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP TONIGHT INTO THURSDAY MORNING.

NWS LaCross, Wisconsin:

* 14 TO 18 INCHES OF SNOW WILL FALL…WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE.

* EMERGENCY SERVICES AND RESCUES ARE LIKELY TO BE HALTED FOR A PERIOD DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM.

NWS Milwaukee for areas West of Milwaukee:

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…12 TO 17 INCHES. THUNDERSNOW WITH RATES OF 2 TO 3 INCHES PER HOUR MAY BRIEFLY OCCUR.

This storm is certainly not one to mess around with. Travelers to other cities may also be in for a wild ride. Here in Louisville (SDF), we’ll be looking at high winds tomorrow and 50 mph gusts out of the west are not out of the question. The primary parallel runways here run north/south alignment (17L/35R and 17R/35L), but with strong winds out of the west, it appears the winds may exceed the crosswind limitations of some aircraft. If this happens, and I suspect it will, the shorter cross runway 29/11 will get some good use.

While it is too late to purchase travel insurance for this current storm system, if you’ll be traveling over the holidays, a policy which covers extended delays, cancellations, delayed/lost luggage and other mishaps may be a good idea, especially if expenses from unexpected delays and cancellations where you must obtain overnight lodging will create a financial hardship. We personally use Travel Guard for all of our international travel as well as some domestic travel.

Airlines generally do not cover lodging for weather delays, but they may provide discount lodging certificates. If the cancellation is mechanical, then the airline should provide you food and lodging for an overnight delay.

National Airspace System Status

The FAA provides real-time, up to date information on airport delays at: FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center.

The site provides information on delays at major airports which are the result of ground delay programs, ground hold programs, and other severe weather avoidance programs which affect Air Traffic Flow Control.

The FAA provides good information, but always check with your airline for up to date flight status.

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One Response

Thanks for posting up to date information. My American Airlines flight was cancelled. I found you on google as I was waiting in line to be re-booked and suggested they send me via Dallas and I was able to get home!!

Thank You!

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