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Originally published January 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Page modified January 7, 2014 at 10:05 AM

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More than 9,000 U.S. flights canceled amid ‘polar vortex’

Chicago’s airports especially hard-hit as airlines scrub flights.

Bloomberg News

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Airlines are scrapping U.S. flights again today, pushing the total past 9,000 in four days, as they struggle to rebuild schedules after fresh Midwest snow and extreme cold added to disruptions from last week’s Northeast storm.

Canceled departures and arrivals topped 1,500 at Chicago’s major airports, O’Hare International and Midway International, the city’s aviation department said Sunday. Snowfall in the area was forecast to be as deep as 10 inches, the National Weather Service said on its website.

The foul weather came as the first full work week of the new year got under way and the holiday travel season drew to a close. Chicago-based United Airlines and New York-based JetBlue were among the carriers trying to rebook fliers who missed connections or who found themselves stranded as their trips were scrubbed.

“We are working hard to reset the operation and get people where they’re going, but it will take days, not hours,” JetBlue said in an advisory on its website.

Cancellations for Monday already totaled almost 1,400 by late Sunday, according to Houston-based FlightAware. Airlines scrubbed more than 3,100 flights Sunday and had delays on about 7,000 more, according to FlightAware, whose tallies include all trips, not just those affected by weather.

United and its commuter partners were among the hardest hit by cancellations, FlightAware data showed. United warned passengers of possible delays in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, Minneapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina. All those cities are home to hub airports for major U.S. airlines.

Southwest Airlines., the busiest carrier at Chicago Midway, had more than half of Sunday’s flights across its system canceled or late, according to FlightAware. JetBlue said last week’s storm, planes filled by holiday travelers and pilot-scheduling rules “combined to significantly impact our operations.”

“We have few options available, further hindered by incoming weather (icing conditions) in the Northeast,” the airline said on its website.

The coldest temperatures in almost two decades are moving into the northern and central U.S. behind an arctic cold front, with “life-threatening” wind chill values as low as 60 degrees below zero, the National Weather Service said.

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