San Diegans gearing up for disaster relief - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diegans gearing up for disaster relief in aftermath of Hurricane Irene

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(AP/ News8)  Several  first responders from San Diego have already been dispatched to the East Coast to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Already, three members of San Diego Fire-Rescue's Search-and-Rescue team have flown toward the path of the storm. Representatives from San Diego's American Red Cross chapter are also on their way.

Meanwhile, travelers across the country are facing days of grief after Hurricane Irene forced the cancellation of thousands of flights.

Airlines scrapped more than 9,000 flights this weekend from North Carolina to Boston, grounding travelers as Irene churns up the East Coast. There were more than 3,800 cancellations on Saturday alone.

All New York City-area airports closed to arriving flights at noon on Saturday, when the city's public transportation system also shut down. The biggest airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc., canceled thousands of flights each.

Several airlines canceled flights scheduled for early next week as well. Hold times for airlines' customer service lines dragged on for hours.

Airlines declined to say how many passengers would be affected by the hurricane, but the numbers will likely reach into the millions. That's because so many flights, both domestic and international, make connections through major East Coast airports. Even passengers not flying anywhere near the East Coast could be delayed for days as airlines work to get planes and crews back into position.

Airlines were last hit with a natural disaster this winter, when they canceled thousands of flights ahead of a pair of huge snowstorms. The storms in December and February led to more than 10,000 cancellations over several days and left many thousands of people stranded at airports.

Airlines have been filling their flights much closer to capacity over the last year in an effort to be more efficient. That makes it harder for stranded passengers to find empty seats on new flights once the weather improves. Airlines waived ticket-change fees for most East Coast travelers affected by the storm. Some pushed off the $150 penalties for as much as a week to encourage travelers to make new arrangements.

American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the airline already has canceled some flights for Monday. The airline is planning to resume flights in North Carolina and Virginia after noon today. She said it wasn't yet clear when flights in and out of New York would resume.

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