News / Economy

Weather Playing Havoc with Holiday Travel

Travelers wait in line to check in as they prepare to travel to Cuba at Miami International Airport in Miami, 23 Dec 2010
Travelers wait in line to check in as they prepare to travel to Cuba at Miami International Airport in Miami, 23 Dec 2010

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Travelers around the world are being besieged by all kinds of problems this Christmas season: snow, mudslides and even terror threats.

Snow in Western Europe has meant a beautiful white Christmas for some people, but travel delays for many others.

The main airport in Paris was running short of de-icing liquid. Many planes could not get off the ground, leaving desperate passengers stranded on the Christmas Eve.

Some unlucky travelers were still stuck at the airport on Friday morning. One Mexican woman said she had been waiting for a flight to Geneva since Thursday. She slept the night with her young child at the airport.

An Italian traveller, Ramona Sansotta, said her flight had already been cancelled twice.

"We hope to get back home before Christmas," said Sansotta.

Snow and ice also disrupted Brussels airport in Belgium.  Richard and Kathy Broughton were trying to get home to the US.

"Our kids are over there, all the rest of the family are there," said Broughton.  "But not us this time. Oh well, Merry Christmas. The Christmas that wasn't."

But snow was not bothering everyone in the world.

China's landmark national stadium in Beijing was transformed into a winter wonderland with artificial snow: more than 25,000 tons of it.

"This is the first time I have seen snow," said student Li Yanxiao.

But in the United States the weather was playing a dirty game on California. Instead of clean, white snow, people there were facing dirty mudslides.

In Highland, California, people were chased from their homes by tides of mud and water, leaving behind homes strung with holiday lights.

The tough task was to dig out vehicles stuck in the mud. Bill Peters works for the state's Forestry and Fire Protection Department.

"You've got to dig out," said Bill Peters.  "You've got to put it on a truck, you've got to dump it, you've got to come back. It becomes a 24-7 process."

Overall, millions of Americans are braving cold weather and snow and traveling 80 kilometers or more by car or by air to be with their families for Christmas.

Passengers traveling by air face a new security alert. Airport screeners are extra-focused on thermos-type insulated beverage containers.

Security agents say there is no specific terror plot, but they are concerned.

Meanwhile, those traveling by car or truck are paying more for gas, 75 cents a liter ($3 a gallon). The national average has never been that high at Christmas-time.

Still, the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 9 out of 10 Americans will travel by car and almost three million will fly.

"During challenging economic times there is a battle between the heartstrings and the purse strings when it comes to time to visit family and friends during the holidays and usually the heartstrings will win out," said Troy Green of AAA.

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