Storm still wreaking havoc on air travel to and from Gainesville
All but one flight from Gainesville to Atlanta was canceled and the storm also caused a blood bank shortage.
Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 12:00 a.m.
The winter storm system that delivered another round of freezing overnight temperatures to North Florida created an inconvenience for travelers trying to fly in and out of Gainesville for a second day on Tuesday.
National Weather Service forecast for Gainesville
Today: Patchy frost before 8am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 49. Wind chill values as low as 26 early. North wind between 8 and 13 mph.
Tonight: Patchy frost after 4 a.m. Otherwise, mostly clear, with a low around 24. North wind between 6 and 8 mph.
Thursday: Patchy frost before 8 a.m. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 50. North wind between 7 and 9 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
Thursday night: Areas of frost after 1 a.m. Otherwise, mostly clear, with a low around 26.
Friday: Areas of frost before 8 a.m. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 55.
Friday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 30.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 61.
Saturday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 36.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 66.
Sunday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 44.
M.L. King Day: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 70.
The storm system also created a potentially life-threatening shortage that residents in Alachua, Marion and other counties are being asked to help fill.
Across the South, up to a foot of snow fell on Sunday and Monday on communities unaccustomed to dealing with even a few inches of snow.
The shortage of plows and sanding trucks from Louisiana to the Carolinas meant roads were being plowed and salted or sanded slowly — if at all. Then, the snow turned to rain and left a swath of ice-covered countryside, effectively closing roads.
Those conditions forced the closing of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers and canceled planned blood drives in Georgia and Alabama. As a result, the blood bank is now in need of all blood types to be shared across the region.
Florida was spared the worst of the storm so LifeSouth is asking residents to make donations as soon as possible.
In a news release, LifeSouth's Galen Unold said that "When we say ‘emergency' we mean our hospitals are not stocked, and LifeSouth has little or none of specific blood products in our inventory. We need people to donate now."
Donors must be at least 17 years old or be 16 with parental permission. To donate you must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. All donors must present photo identification. For details on where to donate, go to www.lifesouth.org.
Trying to fly out of Gainesville became a nightmare for a second day Tuesday for most passengers trying to get to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. All Delta flights were canceled on Monday. By Tuesday the ongoing winter weather and a logjam of backed up flights in Atlanta resulted in all but one flight between Gainesville and Atlanta being canceled.
The storm was moving north along the Mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday, so flights between Gainesville and the Charlotte airline hub also were being canceled or delayed.
Some Gainesville residents found themselves on the road to other airports in an attempt to avoid Atlanta or Charlotte, but ended up stuck anyway.
Drew Bentley, who installs MRI equipment and trains doctors around the country, said he drove to Tampa's airport at 4 a.m. Tuesday for a flight there to avoid Atlanta. On Tuesday afternoon he was stranded in Louisville.
"When Atlanta goes down, it absolutely cuts off everything out of Gainesville. Then my only options are to drive to Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville to get around it," Bentley said.
Janet Karlix, who lives in Gainesville and telecommutes for work with a biotechnology firm in California, had to forego a planned trip there because of the various travel headaches — some of which she was told of by the airlines' computer-generated calls.
"The bizarreness of this reminded me of a Star Trek episode," she wrote in an e-mail to The Sun. "The plights, flights or lack there of, of a road warrior ..."
Dan Boutin typically flies out of Gainesville but has had to scramble this week.
"I am a Diamond member on Delta and having been trying to get out on my weekly business trip since Sunday. I tried Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa connecting through Atlanta and Charlotte, as well as non-stops to my intended destination — Boston or Manchester, N.H.," he e-mailed The Sun. "I have been re-booked — knowingly and unknowingly — at least 8 times and now I am being impacted by the same storm that hit the Southeast — (it's) now impacting my destination, causing more cancellations."
The cancellation of flights at Gainesville Regional is having a financial impact on the airport, said CEO Allen Penska.
"This has a negative impact on our business," Penksa said. "Our parking and concession revenue is down significantly over the two days that we have lost half of our business due to cancellations."
Airline officials said it may take until the end of the week to get the industry back on schedule.
Here in North Florida, we will be spending the rest of the week dealing with another Arctic blast. According to the National Weather Service, below-normal daytime temperatures are forecast for Gainesville, Ocala and the rest of the region. Overnight hard freezes are forecast until the weekend, when slightly warmer weather will move into the area.
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