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Isabel snarls air traffic in the East

Jim Hartman watches Isabel Thursday in Newport News, Virginia. High winds and heavy rains have disabled air travel.
Jim Hartman watches Isabel Thursday in Newport News, Virginia. High winds and heavy rains have disabled air travel.

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Most information about Isabel comes from U.S. Air Force 'hurricane hunters' who fly into the thick of the storm.
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(CNN) -- Hurricane Isabel's high winds and heavy rains snarled air travel along the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday, with the effects of mounting delays and cancellations expected to ripple across the United States.

As many as 2,000 flights were canceled, and hundreds more were rerouted around or over the hurricane.

In Virginia, which was taking the brunt of the storm Thursday afternoon, officials closed Reagan National Airport, Dulles International Airport, Richmond International Airport and Norfolk International Airport, FAA officials said.

"It's basically a massive shutdown," said Rally Caparas, a air traffic specialist. "Very few airplanes are making it off the ground and into the major airports in the Northeast."

Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport had only a few flights going out, officials said.

Authorities closed Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Wilmington International Airport in North Carolina, even though the worst of the storm has already passed through that state, FAA officials said.

Only a few flights were departing the Charlotte-Douglas International airport, the officials said.

Baltimore-Washington International in Maryland was only conducting minimal operations, the FAA officials said.

Severe delays were reported at New York's LaGuardia Airport and Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania, the officials said.

Another weather system -- this one a storm front stretching from Minneapolis to Houston -- is also causing delays of more than an hour at airports in both those cities.

Delays in the East are expected to have an impact across the country.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport reported long delays due to both storms.

"You can expect this to go much wider than just the Atlantic Seaboard," Caparas said. "You will start to see delays as far west as Los Angeles, California, as we go later into the day, as cancellations become more frequent."

Major airlines are offering passengers the opportunity to reschedule without penalty -- and in some cases cancel -- travel in the coming days to destinations on the East Coast and in the Caribbean.

Other transportation systems within the storm's path also have been affected. Washington's transit system shut down bus and rail service Thursday morning, and Amtrak suspended rail service south of the nation's capital.

CNN Correspondent Patty Davis and Producer Beth Lewandowski contributed to this report.

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