KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Monday's extreme cold almost froze air travel in place across the country.
Airlines had delayed more than 5,000 flights by mid-afternoon and canceled more than 3,500 across the U.S.
The near-zero temperatures in Kansas City left a lot of travelers stranded after their flights were delayed or canceled. So much so that airline employees on the tarmac had a difficult time keeping up with demands.
The arctic temperatures left some fuel supplies frozen and some airlines only letting its employees out for a few minutes at a time because wind chills were so low. The wind chill at KCI was -17 at one point, feeling like 047 at other airports.
Still, no matter how cold it gets, airlines have to rely on employees who work outdoors to get planes into the air. Each flight has to be restocked with new beverages and food, baggage, cleared lavatories, a service check and fuel.
Some of those fuel operators had no choice but to stay out in the life-threatening temperatures longer than expected Monday.
Fuel operator Sarah Costello said she had been out in the elements around the clock from 6 a.m. to noon due to the weather-related challenges.
"Some of our hoses earlier, we had to force them. We had to call mechanics down. It was just chaos this morning," she said.
Chicago O'Hare was hit the worst with cancelations and delays.
Many airlines told frustrated, stranded travelers in the Midwest and Northeast, where the cold crippled airlines the most, that they could rebook flights without penalty.