HOUSTON Icy weather sweeping through much of the nation disrupted air traffic flying through Houston Tuesday, causing the cancellation of more than 700 arriving and departing flights at Bush Intercontinental and Hobby Airports.

Passengers stepping from the frigid outdoors into warm terminals anxiously looked up to illuminated boards on which most of the flights were marked with the word cancelled.   Aviation department officials reported crews de-icing some aircraft on the tarmacs.

It s too bad, said George Nicholson, a passenger hoping to catch a flight to Denver. It s really tragic for a lot of travelers. That s the worst part.

But the most conspicuous inconvenience fell upon passengers who flew into Houston for connecting flights that were unexpectedly cancelled. Exhausted travelers who d spent hours in the air slumped in chairs with no idea when they might finally reach their destinations.

I ve been on the road since yesterday, said Petal Aerstin, returning from a visit with her daughter, who s a military enlistee serving overseas. I came from Guam.

Aerstin s connecting flight to her home in Dallas had been cancelled, so she spent the day chatting on her cell phone and wondering when she would finally return home.

I ve been here since 8:00, 7:00 this morning, she said. And I might be here until this afternoon at 5:45, maybe tomorrow at 3:00.

Daniel Olivera flew in from China, personally carrying some machine parts destined for a factory in Monterrey, Mexico. But his connecting flight out of Houston was cancelled, stranding him at the airport for at least another day. His employer was so anxious for the shipment, Olivera seriously speculated whether a bus might get him to his destination faster than a jet.

I was sitting here in this seat for two hours and it s not very comfortable, he said.

Olvera thumbed through a paperback novel that didn t do a very good job of holding his interest.  The weary traveler slumped in an airport chair eventually fell asleep.

When we left Great Falls, Montana, it was 50 degrees the other day, said Lee Haacke, who hoped to catch a flight home. And we came down here expecting to get warm. It s not happening.

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