An untimely fire combined with the collision of a cold front and some warm southern air united to create air travel mayhem along the east coast of North America on Friday. As some relatively typical summer weather organized itself into lines of thunderstorms the building that houses the equipment that helps the FAA cope with these eventualities caught fire. About 1,600 people at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City Airport were evacuated when the fire started around noon. The equipment most affected by the fire institutes ground holds at airports across the country when weather is limiting access to airports in other parts of the country. FAA staff did their best the old-fashioned way, with telephone calls to airlines and other forms of notification, but JetBlue COO Rob Maruster took to Twitter to tweet the bad news to his followers. "It will not be a pretty evening," he said.
Indeed, hundreds of flights were affected, as much by the weather as the fire damage. Intense storms ripped through the Northeast, dropping as much as five inches of rain in a few minutes and kicking up 60-mph winds. The nasty weather is expected to continue through Saturday but Sunday looks good.