Foggy weather in several states was blamed for two- to three-hour delays in flights between New York-area airports and Raleigh-Durham International Airport this afternoon, on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported delays of more than two hours at 4:15 p.m. for flights to Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in the New York area. Flights to Philadelphia were delayed for three hours.
Charlotte's airport was socked in, too. The FAA said flights to Charlotte from RDU and other airports would not be allowed to depart until after 6 p.m.
Flights to Atlanta and Boston were about an hour behind schedule.
"Today was very busy here, particularly this morning," RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said. "You have business travelers going out as well as people returning home from Thanksgiving."
She said flights continue to land and take off at RDU, and the delays apparently are caused by poor visibility elsewhere. "It appears to be the weather at some other airports. It's still foggy here, but it has lifted considerably from what it was this morning."
Travelers should get flight status updates from their airlines before going to the airport.
Meanwhile, rain is moving into the Triangle this afternoon and evening. Up to an inch is expected, but it won't make much of a dent in the area's drought.
"Any effect we get from this rainfall will be a small uptick in some water reservoirs, followed by a quick decline back to the current level," said Don Figurskey, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
The Triangle's rainfall on Sunday was barely measurable -- about a tenth of an inch or less in most places, Figurskey said.
So far this month, the Raleigh-Durham area has received less than half an inch of rain, far less than the average of three inches, Figurskey said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the region is now in "exceptional" drought, the worst of four categories.
Figurskey said the drought is bound to continue, given the serious rainfall deficits across the state. And forecasters are predicting a drier-than-normal winter and possibly a more severe drought next summer because of the La Nina weather pattern emerging off the Pacific coast of South America.
"If we continue this La Nina weather pattern, this low frequency and low amount of rain could continue through the bulk of the winter," Figurskey said. "The key word here is conserve."
Gov. Mike Easley on Friday renewed his call for people to stop irrigating yards, washing cars and hosing paved surfaces, even if they have private wells. Many public water systems already ban such water use.
"We need to conserve aggressively between now and the new year," Easley said in a news release. "We cannot make the rain happen, so we have to work really hard on conserving."