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By Corky Siemaszko

Thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed Friday as an massive snowstorm swept across the nation's midsection headed for the East Coast.

Most of the nearly 3,000 cancellations "within, into, or out" of the U.S. were at airports in Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina and in Atlanta after the cities were battered by the blizzard, the flight tracking service FlightAware reported.

There also were hundreds of cancellations at airports serving Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, which are expected to get walloped hardest by the wintry blast on Saturday, according to FlightAware.

More than 3,200 flights in and out of Washington, Philadelphia, and New York-New Jersey have already been scrubbed preemptively for Saturday, the website reported.

Southwest and American Airlines, which serves much of the storm-affected area, accounted for 1,400 of Friday's cancellations.

By Sunday, when the worst of the storm is over, the major airlines should resume their regular schedules.

Travelling was treacherous even in parts of the country not directly in the path of the blizzard.

At Chicago's O'Hare Airport, an incoming United Airlines flight from San Francisco skidded off a slippery runway into the grass, the Chicago Fire Department reported.

No injuries were reported aboard the Boeing 737, but it was the second time since Dec. 30 that this kind of mishap happened at O'Hare.