Airport Crews Battle Mother Nature

By Alison Burdo
|  Saturday, Jan 25, 2014  |  Updated 11:17 PM EDT
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Snow forced a ground stop at Philadelphia International Airport Saturday. NBC10's Christine Madella talks to officials about how they keep the tarmacs and planes clear.

Christine Madella, NBC10.Com

Snow forced a ground stop at Philadelphia International Airport Saturday. NBC10's Christine Madella talks to officials about how they keep the tarmacs and planes clear.

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A snowy and bitter cold start to 2014 has left many travelers frustrated with flight cancellations and delays at Philadelphia International Airport.

About 100 flights were canceled Saturday after snowfall caused poor visibility, according to an airport spokeswoman.

Several airlines were still experiencing delays ranging from 15 minutes to five hours throughout the evening. The Federal Aviation Administration issued ground stop that lasted for more than two hours earlier in the day.

"I would much rather have aircraft delays, than potentially an unsafe situation,"said Keith Brune, deputy director of Aviation for Operations and Facilities.

Individual airlines determines flight cancellations.

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Airport officials expect operations to return to normal by Sunday morning since crews spent the day working to remove snow from runways and deice planes.

"We have to get out there and remove snow very quickly and efficiently," said Brune, who added that his crews must complete the work while dodging aircrafts. "It's high pressure, there's no doubt about that."

No more than a half-inch of snow is allowed on runways, so a team made up of 65 employees use airfield plows to clear the tarmacs.

Measuring 19-feet across, the plows are much bigger than what is used to clear highways and local streets, Brune said.

Airfield crews can't drop traditional rock salt on runways because it is highly corrosive to planes. Instead a potassium acetate, a deicing chemical, is used.

Before planes can take off, they must be cleared of snow and ice.

"A lot of times they will apply a type-4 anti-icing, which then protects the wings so nothing will form and bond on the wing," he added.

The workers are prepared to work 24 hours a day, but some delays are still possible.

Officials advise travelers to check their flight status before heading to the airport and also urge people to use caution while driving to pick up or drop off passengers.

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