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Winter storm leaves hundreds stranded at MSP after runway closure

Although the airport has since reopened two runways, flight disruptions may linger into Wednesday.

MINNEAPOLIS — The winter storm that swept through the Twin Cities metro on Tuesday afternoon caused major headaches for travelers at the Minneapolis-St.  Paul International Airport, leading airlines to cancel or delay more than 200 flights in and out of the airport throughout the day.

The airport shut down all runway operations around 1:45 p.m. due to heavy snowfall and poor visibility and kept them closed for more than two hours. Battling the snowy conditions, plow operators managed to open one runway after 4 p.m. before clearing a second one a short time later.

Despite resuming operations, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesperson Jeff Lea said the runway shutdown caused a significant ripple effect that will impact some flights both Tuesday and Wednesday.

“When you have that, and you have to close all runway operations, you’re going to have a lot of cancelations and delays,” Lea said. “It’s going to take more than 24 hours to sort of reset and get the [airline] schedules back on track.”

Based on conversations with the airlines, Lea said he expects hundreds of people to either stay overnight at MSP or find a hotel nearby, as airlines rush to rebook people who had flights canceled.

“We’re ready for them,” Lea said. “Concessions will stay open later, if they need a mattress or a pillow, or to find accommodations if they can’t find some outside of the terminal, we’ll make sure they get what they need.”

Ron Klein and Bev Marion planned to travel Tuesday to Bismarck, North Dakota, to celebrate Bev’s birthday. They managed to rebook their trip after a cancelation, but they now have to take separate planes – and can’t get out until Wednesday.

It’s not so bad seeing it canceled, if you can get on the next flight, or the flight after. We knew the snow was coming and that it could be hit or miss,” Klein said. “But we didn’t think it was going to be a miss until tomorrow.”

Ramon Vega, Jr., spent the entire day at the airport after Delta canceled his trip to Aberdeen, S.D.

He prepared to sleep at MSP, if needed.

“I’m all for new experiences,” Vega, Jr., said. “So, why not just take it in, and call home an airport for the night?!”

Late Tuesday, a Delta flight to Aberdeen – leaving at 9:59 p.m. CST – appeared to be on time.

“I’m really hoping to get out of here tonight,” Vega Jr. said.

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