It's been a rough start to the Thanksgiving travel week. Dense fog, with near zero visibility, kept hundreds of travelers in the area stranded for the better part of Wednesday.
As of 6 p.m., there were still multiple delayed arrivals and departures on Delta, United and Allegiant Airlines at the South Bend Airport. In the most extreme cases, those delays were between two and three hours.
The challenge started when major Midwest hubs like Chicago Midway, Chicago O’Hare International and Detroit Metro Airport runways bottlenecked under poor conditions, triggering a major domino-effect across the entire U.S. flight grid.
"Unfortunately the fog is something we can't control so they're doing their best and we ask for everyone's patience during this time,” South Bend Airport marketing director Julie Curtis said.
Historically, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest 24-hour period for most U.S. airports, including the South Bend Airport, which had 42 scheduled flights with a total of 2500 passengers.
As of 12 p.m., Elkhart resident Lynne Schmidt's United Airlines flight to Newark via Chicago O’Hare was already seven hours delayed.
"A friend called me Tuesday evening to say there was fog and my answer was, 'I’m leaving home at 2:30 a.m., I’ll beat the fog.’ Guess what, I hit it,” Schmidt said with an annoyed chuckle.
"Visibility is really key. Pilots and co-pilots need to be able to see to take off and land. So if they don't have that visibility, obviously they can't do either of those things,” Curtis added.
Visibility however wasn’t a concern on the rails. The South Shore Line between the South Bend Airport and downtown Chicago didn’t report one delay beyond five minutes.
"The fog wasn't too bad. It was a little thick this morning, but as long as we can see the signals clearly, we keep going at a normal speed,” South Shore Line train conductor Tom Lawson said.
Conditions were also smooth on the Indiana Toll Road where state troopers urged drivers to stay below the posted 70 mph limit; a message that evidently paid-off with just one accident on the Toll Road, near Gary.
"Everyone wants to get to their destination as quickly and safely as possible and the airlines are working to get them there, we just need travelers to remain patient,” Curtis concluded.
Aviation experts always recommend travelers call their respective airline before heading to the airport, especially during inclement weather.
If you’d like to view a photo album of foggy conditions across the area from NewsCenter 16 viewers, just go to Facebook and “like” our WNDU Page.