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Now the couple planned to spend much of Christmas Day in separate airports.
“A white Christmas is not so welcome,” Mr. Breeding said as the couple stood in the lobby of the Nashville airport with their luggage in a cart.
Brian Korty at the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md., said travelers in the northern Mid-Atlantic region and New England may want to rethink Sunday travel plans.
“They may see nearly impossible conditions to travel in,” he said. “It would be a lot better for them to travel today than it would be tomorrow.”
In Pensacola, Fla., Jena Passut faced a quandary. The 36-year-old magazine writer drove with her husband and two kids from Fairfax, Va., to visit relatives. Now she worried about how to get back home amid the snow.
“Should we leave on Christmas night? My kids are normally good travelers, but if it’s going to take us twice as long, it’s going to be hell,” she said. “I like a white Christmas as much as anyone, but I don’t want to drive in it.”
Delta Air Lines spokesman Kent Landers said 500 weather-related flight cancellations were planned for Saturday nationwide. That included 300 of the 800 scheduled departures from the Atlanta hub.
Only a few hundred people milled about the cavernous terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, many of them recent arrivals from international flights. Passengers were notified Friday when flights were pre-emptively canceled, so most didn’t bother to show up. Many chairs were empty; restaurants, too.
Some couldn’t help but chuckle that the flights were nixed long before the first raindrop or snowflake had fallen. Snow didn’t begin falling in Atlanta until Saturday afternoon.
“They canceled hundreds of flights, and there hasn’t even been a drop of rain,” said Stephanie Palmer, who was killing time with her friend Ibrahima Soumano as he awaited a flight to Mali. “This doesn’t make sense.”
Mr. Landers said Delta would decide on possible additional Sunday cancellations as the time approaches. He said anyone with travel plans through Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington and Newark, N.J., on Sunday or Monday can change their flight without a penalty as long as they travel by Dec. 29.
AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said Saturday that the carrier had canceled seven Saturday flights and that afternoon flights from Atlanta would be delayed because of required de-icing of planes. AirTran, too, offered to waive ticket-change fees for some flights scheduled for this weekend and Monday in the South and Mid-Atlantic.
The Nashville area had an inch or so of snow overnight, and roads appeared to be clear. There was also snow in northern Alabama.
By Saturday morning, 4 to 5 inches of snow had fallen over several hours in Bowling Green, Ky., according to the weather service. Louisville, Ky., had about an inch.
Louisville last had snowfall on Christmas in 2002, when a half-inch fell.
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