COLUMBIA — Linda Vennicia Oates, 20, sat patiently in her chair at the Columbia Regional Airport on Friday with her coat folded in her lap and two small black suitcases under her feet. She was flying to Nashville, Tenn., to visit her boyfriend and his family for Christmas.
Originally from Sierra Leone, Oates moved to Columbia in July.
Because her flight had been delayed three hours, Oates, along with about 50 other passengers, were forced to wait to join their families for the holidays. The airline had given them access to a hotline in Tennessee to reconfigure transfer flights and arrangements.
Across the country, millions of people trying to get home for the holidays faced weather challenges. Up to 5 inches of snow were expected in Columbia, and snow was complicating travel in other parts of the Midwest, the South and the West.
Travelers could find up to 8 inches in Iowa and 6 inches in Illinois and Minnesota before the storm heads south to Tennessee on Saturday and then back north on Sunday.
In other regions of the country, airports experienced some delays Friday because of the weather.
Flights from Kansas City to Houston and Salt Lake City were delayed Friday, but departures from St. Louis and Chicago appeared to be on schedule.
For drivers, winter weather advisories were in effect from Kansas east to Kentucky and from Minnesota south to Arkansas on Friday.
The AAA predicted overall travel to rise about 3 percent this year, with more than 92 million people planning to go more than 50 miles sometime between now and Jan. 2. More than 90 percent said they would be driving.
The Air Transport Association expected 44.3 million people on U.S. flights between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5 — up 3 percent over the same period a year ago but still below pre-recession travel volume.
Back in Columbia, travelers waited idly in the terminal on Friday, calling airlines and relatives about delays and rearranging plans.
Tim Loy, 52, and his son Tyson, 22, waited for 2 p.m. for their tentative flight departure as well.
Because of the delay, they didn't think they would make the the Christmas Eve service at their church in Nashville. But they were still looking forward to visiting with family and friends.
They haven't seen the rest of their family for six months.
"It'll be a nice reunion," Tyson Loy said.