Heavy fog forced cancellation or delays of hundreds of airline flights Thursday in the Midwest and Northeast, stranding travelers and leading to a "big old slumber party" at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
About 30% of O'Hare's average 200 arrivals and departures each hour were canceled and all flight operations were suspended at the smaller Midway Airport, Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Lisa Howard said.
Traffic at the three major airports in the New York-New Jersey area was disrupted, with Newark and La Guardia hardest hit.
Arrivals were suspended for several hours at La Guardia until early afternoon, when the fog began to lift, said the Port Authority, which runs the airports.
The fog enveloped Newark and Kennedy airports during the morning and midday period when traffic is lightest.
Even so, the fog--reducing visibility to one-sixteenth of a mile at its worst--inconvenienced thousands of travelers, Port Authority spokesman Bill Cahill said.
Fog also caused delays or cancellations at Boston's Logan International Airport, Rhode Island's T. F. Green Airport, Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, and in Detroit at Metropolitan Airport and Kent County International Airport.
Howard said as many as 200 passengers camped out at O'Hare overnight.
"We had a big old slumber party at the airport last night," she said, as the city provided travel kits, pillows, chips, soda and baby diapers to would-be travelers.
"We went driving around Chicago, but you can't see much of Chicago in the fog," said would-be passenger Sharon Hedinger of Hart, Mich.
Police reported a flurry of fog-related auto accidents--including a 13-car pileup in Michigan--and blamed the conditions for at least three deaths on the roads.
Operations at several northern Indiana airports slowly got back to normal as heavy fog there lifted.
And in the southern Illinois town of New Baden, about 30 miles east of St. Louis, the fog forced pilot Curt Kalbach to land his helicopter on Kathy Renth's front lawn.
Kalbach left the helicopter on the lawn all day--with a note of explanation--because the fog was too thick to take off.
"The first thing I wondered was, what kind of farm equipment was parked in the yard," said Renth, who arrived home later. "It wasn't until I got right up on it that I could see there was a helicopter parked in my yard."