Midwest storm causing problems for local travelers

SEATAC, Wash. -- A vicious midwest storm left scores of weary passengers stranded at Sea-Tac Airport on Thursday, and some of them won't make it out before Christmas.

For others at the airport, it was just a relief to be returning home.

Dan Braum of Kansas got a big welcome to Seattle from his grandsons. The welcome was even sweeter because earlier in the day he wasn't sure he'd make it to Washington at all.

"It was a cluster," he said. "It was a great snafu. It was a mess."

Heavy rain and snow created a mess in Kansas City and other midwestern areas, causing more than 1,000 canceled flights and creating a ripple effect throughout the country.

The storm, which dumped a foot of snow in parts of Iowa and more than 19 inches in Wisconsin's state capital, was part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week before trekking into the Midwest. It was expected to move across the Great Lakes overnight before moving into Canada.

The majority of Southwest Airlines flights to and from Chicago Midway were canceled on Thursday night, but Sandra Jones made it out just in time.

"I left all the snow," she said. "Everybody back there is happy for snow at Christmas. I'll go to Bellevue and see the snow made."

Airlines were waiving fees for customers impacted by the storm who wanted to change their flights. They were monitoring the storm throughout the night to determine if more cancellations would be necessary on Friday.

The cancellations were getting a lot of attention because the storm came just a few days before Christmas. But Daniel Baker, CEO of flight tracking service, called it "a relatively minor event in the overall scheme of things."

By comparison, airlines canceled more than 13,000 flights over a two-day period during a February 2011 snowstorm that hit the Midwest. And more than 20,000 flights were canceled during Superstorm Sandy.

More than 100,000 passengers are expected to come through Sea-Tac on Friday, making it one of the busiest travel days of the holiday season.