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Weather breaks for many travelers

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 23, 2000


TAMPA -- Almost everyone traveling over the river and through the woods got a break from the weather Friday as storms and blizzards weakened and, in most areas, disappeared.

For air travelers concerned that airline labor disputes and vicious winter weather might wreck their holiday before it began, generally smooth airline operations came as a surprise.

"We have huge crowds and we have some delays, but we haven't experienced any cancellations yet today," said Brenda Geoghagan, spokeswoman for Tampa International Airport.

Louis Miller, executive director of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, also breathed easier.

"Delays you can deal with," Miller said. "It's when you get cancellations that you have trouble. You can't put people on later flights because they're all booked up. The weather also gave us a big break. I hope it lasts another three weeks."

The exceptions to good weather were Philadelphia and Boston, where wind and snow stacked up airline flights. Philadelphia experienced delays for arriving and departing flights of from one to three hours. The delays in Boston ran two to six hours.

Low ceilings and foul weather at Los Angeles International Airport delayed inbound flights from Denver and along the West Coast by one to three hours.

Wind in Chicago caused a change in runway configuration, delaying flights from one to four hours. TIA reported some delays in and out of Baltimore. High winds were blamed for short delays at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Forecasters predicted much colder and windier weekend weather, but no heavy snow, in the Northeast, along the Great Lakes and in the upper Midwest.

An expected parking crunch at TIA hit the least expensive parking the hardest. The new remote economy lot, where parking costs $6 a day or $30 a week, filled Friday afternoon.

Travelers who didn't want to pay the $12 or $8 daily parking fees at the short-term and long-term garages were sent to a special holiday lot at the extreme south end of the airport property. Cost was $20 a week.

Friday morning, 3,000 spaces were left in the long-term garage. Garage attendants can squeeze cars into areas of the long-term garage where parking isn't normally allowed. After that space fills, drivers will have to park in the short-term lot, but will pay the lower long-term parking rate.

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