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Rising TSA Sickouts, Winter Storm Combine for U.S. Travel Mess

Hailey Waller
Rising TSA Sickouts, Winter Storm Combine for U.S. Travel Mess

(Bloomberg) -- A one-two punch of bad weather and longer airport security lines mean it’ll continue to be a miserable weekend for many travelers in the U.S.

A blizzard that the National Weather Service says is shifting from the Midwest into the Northeast may leave up to two feet of snow. Strong gusty winds and bitter cold will follow, risking a dangerous flash freeze. In the West, heavy mountain snow will fall in California and the Rocky Mountain region.

President Trump tweeted about the weather around 8 a.m. New York time Sunday. Governors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York had previously declared states of emergency.

Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. waived rebooking fees this weekend for travelers disrupted by the storm. As of about noon in New York, 1,544 flights had been canceled in the U.S., the majority from Boston, New York and Chicago, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. Another 989 had been delayed. JetBlue had canceled 42 percent of their flights.

Meanwhile, unscheduled absences for Transportation Security Administration employees climbed to 8 percent on Saturday versus 3 percent a year ago -- the highest level seen so far during the shutdown. Some workers said they aren’t able to report to work due to financial limitations, TSA said in a statement this morning. Though the workers are furloughed because of the U.S. government shutdown, they’re still required to work without pay.

One security checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Airport closed early on Saturday due to “excessive callouts,” the TSA said on Twitter. Passengers were advised to arrive earlier than usual for evening flights.

Temperatures expected in the Kansas City area on Sunday -- where the Chiefs will play the New England Patriots in an AFC Championship game -- are expected to be as low as 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 Celsius).

AccuWeather warned that the polar plunge of brutal cold could be life-threatening in areas and complicate travel and cleanup efforts from the storm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at hwaller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Virginia Van Natta, Tony Czuczka

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