Soaring or Sinking? The Untold Story of Airlines Weathering Japan’s Perfect Storm

A massive winter storm wreaked havoc across the United States on Wednesday, causing widespread flight cancellations and severe traffic disruptions. FlightAware, a flight tracking service, recorded nearly 6,000 cancellations on Tuesday, with more expected on Wednesday. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport experienced a two-hour shutdown due to ice, impacting air travel operations. American Airlines faced challenges in Dallas, where high winds made it unsafe for de-icing employees to work.

Chicago O’Hare reported delays exceeding two hours, with United Airlines planning around 300 cancellations in anticipation of increasing snowfall in the afternoon. The storm, affecting a significant portion of the U.S. population, brought blizzard conditions from the southern Plains to the upper Midwest, paralyzing transportation and threatening record snowfall.

The National Weather Service issued storm alerts in over 30 states and blizzard warnings for eight, including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Moderate to heavy snowfalls, ranging from 8 to 15 inches, were forecasted for the central and northern Midwest, with some areas expecting up to 20 inches. Chicago anticipated accumulations of up to 2 feet, while the U.S. Northeast faced the possibility of 12-18 inches of snow in Boston by Wednesday.

After the snowfall subsides, affected regions are expected to experience freezing temperatures until the weekend, accompanied by dangerous wind chills. While Wall Street operated normally on Tuesday, officials made preparations for potential disruptions on Wednesday due to hazardous icing.

The federal government in Washington granted unscheduled leave or telecommuting options for workers on Tuesday due to treacherous travel conditions. The storm prompted the Federal Emergency Management Association to deploy personnel and position essential supplies in eleven states, from Oklahoma to Rhode Island.

Agricultural operations in Plains states, particularly in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, faced significant threats to winter wheat crops, cattle herds, and grain deliveries. Meat processor Cargill announced production reductions at Midwest pork plants, while Chicago soybean futures rose over 1% due to increased feed demand.

The storm’s impact extended beyond transportation and agriculture, causing states of emergency in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. While the storm is not expected to significantly affect first-quarter U.S. economic growth, it poses additional challenges for state and local governments already grappling with budget constraints after a series of storms in January depleted snow removal budgets.