UPDATE 1-Airlines cancel thousands of US flights during winter storm

(Updated numbers)

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Airlines canceled nearly 2,700 U.S. flights on Saturday afternoon after a massive winter storm hampered airport operations across the country, frustrating thousands of vacationers.

There were flight delays within, to or from the United States, totaling around 6,200 as of Saturday afternoon, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, which showed total cancellations U.S. flights of about 2,700. Cancellations as of Saturday afternoon included more than 750 from Southwest Airlines and nearly 500 from Delta Air Lines Inc.

The flight disruptions came as an arctic blast swept through much of the United States on Saturday, causing power outages and car wrecks. Falling temperatures were expected to bring the coldest Christmas Eve on record to several cities from Pennsylvania to Georgia.

Temperatures are expected to peak Saturday at just 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) in Pittsburgh, surpassing its previous coldest Christmas Eve record of 13 F, set in 1983, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity over the past 70 years, according to the US Global Change Research Program. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, this is partly due to climate change, as the planet evaporates more water into the atmosphere as it warms, leading to more overall precipitation.

On Friday, flight cancellations in the United States stood at 5,936, according to FlightAware.

“Increasing air traffic volumes and winter weather conditions affecting the northern half of the United States could further cause delays to holiday travel,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday, even though travel conditions should improve.

An NBC News affiliate reported that bad weather canceled more than 130 flights Saturday morning at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Some passengers told the media that they were not notified before going to the airport.

An ABC News affiliate showed long lines at Denver International Airport on Saturday morning, where more than 150 flights were delayed and nearly 130 were canceled.

The Amtrak passenger railroad has canceled dozens of trains through Christmas, disrupting holiday travel for thousands of people. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Josie Kao and Leslie Adler)

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