Stranded Travelers Pack Area Hotels As Flight Cancellations Pile Up

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MADISON, Ala.(WHNT)-Can't get in, can't get out. That's the story at several hotels in and around metro Huntsville as business travelers from across the nation find themselves stranded due to the latest blast of winter weather.

Nearly every hotel in Huntsville and Madison was at capacity Wednesday night as travelers were forced to extend their stays due to mass cancellations at Huntsville International Airport.

All 96 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Madison were booked for the foreseeable future after several dozen contractors with the Department of Defense learned they would have to stay at least another night. The hotel has been hosting a training conference for the contractors all week, and is just a three minute drive from the aiport.

"I guess the frustrating part is not knowing," said Maria Franklin, who was trying to fly back to Columbia, South Carolina via Atlanta. "All I can say to my husband is Happy Valentine's Day, because I just might not be there."

"I was anticipating going home Thursday, had plans for Friday, but that's now going to be cancelled," said Baltimore resident Tisha Mason. "I'm trying to stay focused, here for class, but everyone is still worried about how the weather is going to impact those flights."

Holiday Inn Express General Manager Pamela Graves said she had lost track of how many people she had to turn away due to the sellout, a scenario being played out across Madison County. But even though full capacity means extra work, Graves and other managers aren't complaining.

"I wish I could make more rooms, but I can't make more rooms," said Graves. "It's nice to have that business, but it's unfortunate for the people that are trying to get out."

The vast majority of defense contractors staying at the Holiday Inn Express have connecting flights in Atlanta, which is now getting hit with a historic ice storm. Travel analysts said it could take until next week before the airlines are able to clear out the backlog of fliers who are now off schedule.

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