POSTED: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 10:50am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 10:54am
(CNN) — A Southern storm that the National Weather Service warned could be "catastrophic" has slowed down air travel across the United States.
As the latest severe winter storm unfolds, more than 2,800 flights out of 27,000 scheduled U.S. flights had already been canceled by 10:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com. That number is expected to rise throughout the day.
A normal February day would see fewer than 100 cancellations, according to FlightAware's Daniel Baker.
Most of the cancellations are at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,600, or nearly 70% of flights, have been canceled, according to FlightAware. Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is the second most-affected airport, with more than 50% of its schedule canceled.
Airlines don't like ice.
Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines didn't wait for Wednesday's ice storm to move many of their aircraft out of Atlanta. They flew airplanes to other airports to keep them out of the path of the storm.
Atlanta-based Delta has canceled more than half of its flights systemwide.
Southwest, which also operates AirTran Airways, wasn't as severely affected. It canceled about 350 of about 3,500 total Wednesday flights for both airlines due to the weather, said Southwest spokesman Dan Landson.
And it's going to get worse before it gets better across the Eastern United States.
The Atlanta and Charlotte airports expect frozen precipitation to continue through Thursday morning, according to FlightAware.
At least most air travelers heading through Atlanta got the message about cancellations and delays before heading to the airport. About 175 passengers spent Tuesday night at the airport, said airport spokesman Reese McCranie. "Those numbers are far less than the storm we had two weeks ago."
The stranded passengers were outnumbered by the 280 airport employees who worked overnight.
The storm's impact will be felt most heavily in Atlanta and airports in North and South Carolina, but it's on the move.
"As the storm moves East and Northeast, airport forecasts are calling for frozen precipitation at airports including D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston," FlightAware's Baker said in a statement. "Airlines have already canceled over 1,000 flights on Thursday (tomorrow) and we expect this number to rise significantly today and tomorrow."
Once the storm lets up, it could take days before the airlines can get crew and aircraft back into position to start flying again.
Airline customers should check their flight status with airlines before departing for the airport. Many airlines are offering flexible, no-fee changes to travel dates.