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Travelers at John Wayne Airport scramble after Southwest Airlines cancels all flights

January 21, 2010 |  3:13 pm

About 100 people were clustered around the Southwest Airlines counter at John Wayne Airport this afternoon, trying to make arrangements after it canceled all flights in and out of Southern California airports because of extreme weather conditions.

In all, 57 arrivals and departures at the Orange County airport were scrubbed.

Dartagnan Pendleton, 41, stared at the flight board, assessing his options. There weren’t many. Every Southwest flight out of John Wayne had been canceled, including his afternoon flight to Oakland.

“Yeah, it is a big deal,” he said. “My father is a quadriplegic and his wife is going away on business tomorrow, and I need to be there to take care of him.”

He said he was considering taking a flight to Fresno on another airline or even renting a car in Orange County and driving to Oakland.

“I don’t know whether I can get through on the 5" Freeway, he said.

Vincent Vancil, 34, was supposed to catch a 3:30 p.m. flight to Oakland, but instead found himself milling around John Wayne.

“If I don’t get home by tomorrow morning, my wife’s going to be upset,” he said. “She has plenty of things to do.”

Shelby Stewart, 32, his wife, son and in-laws made the best of the situation after learning their flight home to Salt Lake City has been scrubbed. They had been in Orange County since Sunday, visiting Disneyland and taking in the sights.

But after finding out Thursday afternoon that booking the eight of them on another flight would cost $2,800, they decided instead to rent a car and head to San Diego.

“We said, 'Why not just extend our trip for a few days and have an adventure?'” Stewart said.

Six other familiy members got out earlier in the day before Southwest began shutting down flights. But they didn’t get far.

Stewart said the last he’d heard, they were grounded in Oakland.

—Mike Anton at John Wayne Airport