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Here is how a '3,000-km-sized storm' may create more chaos for B.C. travellers

Holiday plans for millions of people across North America could be affected by this expansive storm.

B.C. travellers have grappled with "unprecedented" flight cancellations out of B.C.'s biggest airport this week — but a gargantuan winter storm may cause further mayhem over the holidays.

While the winter holidays already see the most air passenger traffic of the year at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), this year's holiday week has been dramatically impacted by a brutal winter storm overnight Monday (Dec.19) that produced roughly 30 cm of fresh snowfall.

Hundreds of travellers were stranded at YVR airport following the snowstorm, with many people forced to stay on the tarmac in planes. Countless air passengers struggled to locate their luggage in a sea of piled-up belongings.

And while the snow stopped falling on Tuesday, the ramifications from widespread flight cancellations have far-reaching effects, with many people unable to re-book flights that fall close to their original departure date. For many people, the next chance for a flight will leave several days after their original flight was scheduled to leave.

As of noon on Wednesday, 283 flights were cancelled at the Vancouver airport in the past 24 hours, according to international flight tracker FlightAware.

Now, a 3,000-km-sized storm is making its way across North America, bringing the potential for more chaos across the global flight network. Domestically, flights heading back east out of YVR may be cancelled, while many flights heading to the west coast from back east may not make it off the tarmac.

Flights headed to popular sun destinations, such as Cancun, Orlando, Miami, or Ocho Rios, Jamaica, may also be cancelled if they involve a domestic connection back east. Flights to the "Big Apple" ahead of Christmas Day may get cut, too. 

What is causing this travel trepidation? 

A "historic surge of Arctic air"  diving south from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico over the next day will "trigger an incredibly strong storm" ahead of the Christmas holidays, according to a recent report from The Weather Network.

The Arctic air is forecasted to clash with "subtropical warmth and moisture over the Mississippi Valley," sparking a "weather bomb" over the Great Lakes. 

Following the "weather bomb," a "roller-coaster of weather conditions" is expected to have massive impacts across North America.

"The sheer size of this storm, the flash freeze potential and blizzard conditions with powerful winds and impressive snowfall totals are what has forecasters' attention," said Kelly Sonnenburg, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, is highlighted as a particularly troubling day, with upwards of 300 million people across the continent waking up to temperatures below 0°C as the deep freeze expands its icy reach.

People should prepare for dangerous travel conditions, power outages, flight cancellations and delays, and damage to infrastructure due to powerful winds. 

What to do if you have a flight booked at Vancouver International Airport

A significant number of aircraft still remain at YVR and continue to cause congestion on the airfield. To help depart aircraft from the airport and get crews and passengers safely on their way, the airport is temporarily limiting arriving international flights for approximately 48 hours. 

Travellers should check weather conditions several days in advance of their flight. But they shouldn't only check the weather in their departure city and destination. Instead, they should look at the weather across North America, as it has an impact on the network, FlightAware spokesperson and aerospace expert Kathleen Bangs told Vancouver Is Awesome in a previous interview.

If possible, booking a backup flight provides an option during peak travel times when cancellations are likely. Depending on the fare class that you book, you can cancel the backup flight if needed and use the credit for future travel. 

Always book travel insurance with trip interruption, trip cancellation, medical for over at least $5 million, and comprehensive baggage loss and delay. Read the fine print closely. 

The Vancouver airport's team has issued several YVR updates over the past couple of days, with many of them thanking the travelling public for their continued patience as the crew clears the ice and snow.

Find out everything Vancouver travellers need to know about cancellations during inclement weather and over the holidays