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Snow storm batters US east, piling onto holiday chaos

After a bruising holiday week of flight cancellations and record surges in Covid-19 cases, a powerful winter storm Monday further snarled US transport and shuttered the federal government and schools.

Many Americans have been scrambling to return home after the Christmas and New Year period, with several thousand flights cancelled since December 24 due to bad weather and airline staffing woes blamed in part on rising coronavirus infections among crews.

Combined with 2,700 US flights scrapped Sunday and 2,750 grounded on Saturday, the latest cancellations compounded holiday travel misery.

Further disruptions snowballed as a winter storm hammered the capital and other parts of the mid-Atlantic, with official forecasts of five to 10 inches (12.7 to 25.4 centimeters) of snow in Washington.

Federal workers in and around the capital were told to stay home. But with telework becoming routine during the two-year coronavirus pandemic, it was unclear how much of the government would be affected.

Airports in Chicago and Atlanta — major transit hubs — as well as Denver, Detroit, Houston and Newark were hard hit over the weekend. By Monday the east coast airports in New York, Washington and Baltimore were scrapping the most flights.

Around the world, air traffic has suffered snarls over the holidays because of airline staffing issues linked to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

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