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U.S. Travel Pain Piles Up as Winter Storm, TSA Absences Worsen

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

Winter storm Harper, a blizzard that the National Weather Service expects to travel from the Midwest through New England and the Northeast, may leave up to 18 inches of snow. In addition, severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and isolated tornadoes may plague the Deep South, along with heavy rain and flash flooding from the Mid-South to the Mid-Atlantic.

Governors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York have declared states of emergency even before the brunt of the storms hit the region.

Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines waived rebooking fees this weekend for travelers impacted by Harper. As of 2:20 p.m. in New York, 1,818 flights had been canceled within, into or out of the U.S., the majority from Chicago, Boston and New York, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. Another 1,739 had been delayed. Some 936 flights have been canceled for tomorrow, mostly in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, unscheduled absences for Transportation Security Administration employees climbed to 7 percent yesterday, versus 3 percent a year ago. Some workers said they aren’t able to report to work due to financial limitations, TSA said in a statement this morning. Though TSA workers are furloughed due to the U.S. government shutdown, they’re still required to work without pay.

Temperatures expected in the Kansas City area on Sunday — where the Chiefs will host the New England Patriots in an AFC Championship game — will be in the bone-chilling 19-28 degree range (minus 2 to minus 7 Celsius range).