January 7, 2014 / 3:50 PM / 4 years ago

Arctic freeze disrupts North American air travel

TORONTO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Glacial temperatures gripping large parts of the United States and Canada disrupted thousands of flights on Tuesday, with Canada’s busiest airport temporarily halting arrivals and Air Canada warning of delayed or canceled flights to and from more than a dozen destinations.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport said the gusty winds and extreme cold weather, which Environment Canada said was minus 37 degrees Celsius (minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit) with wind chill, was causing equipment to freeze and posing a safety concern for workers.

The airport had earlier halted arriving flights. It said on its Twitter account that arrival restrictions have since been lifted. But flights were moving slowly and the airport’s website was down due to unusually high traffic volumes. Its phone lines were also busy.

Air Canada, the country’s largest airline operator, said flights to, from or connecting through 15 airports in Canada and the U.S. northeast could be delayed or canceled into Thursday.

A frigid blast of arctic air that broke decades-old records in the middle United States moved eastward on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled so far and some 1,400 were delayed, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks airline activity.

The website said some 355 flights, or about 30 percent, were canceled at Chicago O‘Hare, which had the highest number of canceled flights.

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