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Flight delays and gridlock mean a long day ahead for LAX travelers

Airport officials said nearly 230 flights in and out of LAX have been canceled or delayed as the first of two rainstorms caused gridlock for hours and forced authorities to switch flight operations Dec. 21 and Dec. 22. (Dec. 23, 2016)

Holiday travelers heading to LAX can expect traffic gridlock and possibly delays Friday as winter storms delay flights heading to the West Coast and departing flights have to wait for their planes to arrive, airport officials said.

More than 130 flights are expected to be delayed before noon at Los Angeles International Airport Friday, said airport spokeswoman Mary Grady. Approximately 91 arrivals and 47 departures are delayed through noon, she said.

“When you’ve got that number of arrival delays, the departure delays are because they’re waiting for equipment to arrive,” Grady said.

At least nine flights were cancelled Friday going to or from LAX, according to flightaware.com.

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Previous estimates of 400 delayed or cancelled flights on Friday provided by LAX officials were inaccurate, Grady said.

Friday’s traveling issues continue what has been a week complicated by weather and by security scares at the airport.

Airport officials said nearly 230 flights in and out of LAX were canceled or delayed as the first of two rainstorms caused gridlock for hours and forced authorities to switch flight operations on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Instead of flying west toward the ocean, planes were forced to head east over urban areas due to high winds, Grady said. The switch, she said, “slows things down.”

The delays and cancellations were partly attributed to snow and rain across the nation, which caused a ripple effect for air travelers. Amid the delays, LAX officials warned that terminals were packed with holiday travelers.

“The airport is at capacity,” Grady said earlier this week.

As passengers flock to the airport, more equipment has been brought in to help with inspections. Daily takeoffs increased from 1,750 to 1,900.

And if that wasn’t enough, lost and forgotten luggage is causing major disruptions.

On Wednesday, police evacuated passengers from three terminals after an unattended package was found.

“As the day went on it started to back up,” Grady said.

Any time unattended baggage is spotted, airport workers are required to report it to police, Grady said. That triggers a massive response, including bomb-sniffing dogs, she said.

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In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to misplace items, Grady said. She asked passengers to keep their possessions close and make sure their baggage is with them at all times.

Travelers can avoid headaches, she said, if they plan ahead.

She advised passengers to check the status of their flights before they start to the airport. They should also monitor weather or delays at their intended destinations.

And don’t forget to use these same tips and plan ahead on Jan. 2 and 3 — those are the airport’s busiest days.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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