- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

Flights resumed at the three major airports in the Washington area yesterday as the national transportation system struggled to get back to normal after Hurricane Isabel.

About 5,700 flights were canceled at 20 Mid-Atlantic airports. Amtrak, intercity buses and other transportation systems also were slowly returning to normal.

Charles Vaughan lamented a lost work opportunity as he waited for a flight home to Maine at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday.

“We were planning to work yesterday in the office,” said the Defense Department analyst as he looked over notes before his flight.

Instead, the approach of Isabel shut down the federal government.

“We didn’t get a chance to finish our assignment,” Mr. Vaughan said. He was stuck in a hotel that lost power because of high wind.

Although he returned home on time, he will need to come back to Washington later to complete a project interrupted by the storm.

Similar stories of interruption were reported throughout the D.C. area yesterday as airlines, Amtrak and other transportation systems cleared debris and returned to service.

Karien Olsson, a cardiologist from Malmo, Sweden, was waiting for a flight home at Reagan Airport after a business conference in Washington. Her first flight was canceled.

“I had to wait for another one,” she said. “They can’t assure me that one will come either.”

Gregg Smolenski, an investment management salesman from Charlotte, N.C., was skeptical that the effects of the hurricane were ended.

“Hopefully they’re back to normal,” he said. “My plane’s not here yet so I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Washington Dulles International Airport received its first flight at 5:30 a.m. as the end of Isabel was passing through the area. The JetBlue Airways flight arrived from Long Beach, Calif.

Reagan Airport reopened at noon, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport returned to normal operations yesterday morning.

“Because the airlines had pulled their planes out, now we’re in kind of a catch-up mode,” said Jonathan Gaffney, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan and Dulles airports.

He predicted airlines would continue juggling schedules today and perhaps tomorrow as they try to return to their normal flights. Reagan Airport maintenance crews repaired electrical damage from high water on runways before the flights resumed.

He said travelers should call their airlines to check flight schedules before arriving at the airport, at least through Sunday.

Amtrak’s passenger train service remained shut down yesterday south of Washington and between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania.

The railroad plans to gradually restore the service today as crews clear tracks and re-energize downed power lines.

Between Alexandria and Rocky Mountain, N.C., “they have all sorts of trees down and no power,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said. “Rather than strand passengers in the middle of nowhere, we simply canceled the service.”

Northeast Corridor passenger rail service returned to normal at 11 a.m. yesterday.

Greyhound Lines reported only temporary interruptions, with all buses operating on normal schedules by 9 a.m. yesterday.

“Everything is up and running,” spokeswoman Kim Plaskett said.

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