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Storm Gia strikes US Midwest as airlines cancel flights and waive rebooking fees

A resident clearing snow in New Virginia, Iowa. In neighbouring Missouri, nearly 500 weather-related motor vehicle accidents were reported as winter storm Gia struck the Midwest over the weekend.

New York

WINTER storm Gia struck the Midwest region of the US, freezing travel plans and prompting airlines to waive rebooking fees. The storm is moving east and was expected to persist throughout Sunday, with flight disruptions extending into the work week.

Some 435 flights were cancelled nationwide and almost 2,200 had been delayed as of 6.30pm EST on Satturday, according to flight-tracking service The hardest hit airport was St Louis, a major hub for Southwest Airlines Co. Some 119 combined arrivals and departures were cancelled there as more than 30 centimetres of snow fell in the area.

Airports in Indianapolis and Kansas City, Missouri, also saw above-average cancellations as the storm tracked across the country's midsection.

The dangerous weather conditions added to travel misery as the Transportation Security Administration began closing a handful of security checkpoints at airports around the US during the weekend. TSA employees called in sick in higher numbers, a day after their first missed pay-cheque since parts of the federal government wound down on Dec 22.

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Gia was expected to bring additional snow to the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic by Sunday evening, the Weather Channel reported. Flights at Chicago O'Hare, Chicago Midway, Washington Dulles, Washington Reagan National, Indianapolis and Cincinnati could be affected.

Southwest, Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings and Frontier Airlines have all waived rebooking fees for some airports because of the storm.

The Weather Channel reported that nearly 500 weather-related motor vehicle accidents had been reported in Missouri. Hundreds of people were stranded for hours as snow and freezing rain rendered parts of Interstate 44 in Missouri nearly impassable on Friday evening. That motorway and I-70 were reopened on Saturday morning.

"Our crews remain out and are making good progress but as long as it's snowing the roads won't be totally clear," the Missouri Department of Transportation said on its St Louis area Twitter feed.

AccuWeather called the storm the largest in the St Louis area since 2014. "For many areas, this will be a long-duration winter storm that lasts more than 12 hours and perhaps as long as 24 hours in some cases," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Sporadic power outages also resulted, the weather service said, the result of heavy, wet snow that caused some trees to snap and bring down power lines. BLOOMBERG

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