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Thousands of Flights Canceled In Icy South

De-icing operations
De-icing operations underway at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Airlines canceled thousands of flights Wednesday as an ice storm seized the South.

Starting at 5 a.m. a freezing rain fell in Atlanta, leaving surfaces covered in ice. By 8 a.m., over 0.27" of ice formed at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, reported The Weather Channel. By 9 a.m., the rain turned to sleet.

As of mid-morning, 3,003 flights were canceled and 3,198 delayed, appromixately 1,900 of them at the Atlanta hub, where only 259 flights were scheduled to fly today, an airport spokesman said.

Delta said it had canceled over 2,200 flights Tuesday and Wednesday, mostly centered around Atlanta, where it is based, and offered refunds and waived change fees to those with canceled or significantly delayed flights.

Southwest said it had canceled all Atlanta flights and planned on resuming normal operations Thursday. It offered eligible customers free ticket changes.

Atlanta braces for wicked storm 2:22

"It's a pretty aggressive cancelation package," said Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie, who said runways and ramps were clear and treated. "Folks who have been here over 20 years, this is more cancelations than they can remember."

Recently enacted regulations have decreased the time pilots can be on the job, whether or not they fly, making it harder for airlines that haven't adjusted operations accordingly to cope with inclement weather.