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Chicago Flight Cancellations Cause North Texas Airport Backups

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A fire at an air traffic control facility in suburban Chicago caused widespread flight Friday cancellations at the both Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport and more cancellations are expected. The disruption sent delays rippling through the nation's air travel network.

The fire was quickly put out. It began in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago. The center was evacuated and management of the region's air space was transferred to other facilities.

A city spokesman in Aurora said emergency crews discovered a man in the basement of the facility with a self-inflicted wound and took him to the hospital. It's not clear whether the man had anything to do with the fire.

The impact of the delays has been felt in North Texas. Southwest Airlines announced Friday that they proactively canceled flights at Chicago-Midway International Airport and flights into Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport are affected as well.

American Airlines has cancelled 1,800 flights system wide, including departures out of and arrivals into Chicago, mainline and regional.

At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, hundreds of passengers were inconvenienced.

Brett Bryner was hoping to fly out for a convention, but had to call his wife to come back and pick him up. "We're actually hosting an event tonight on the Chicago River for those that are attending and apparently they're not going to go there either, because our flights are canceled," he told CBS 11 News.

The delays and cancellations weren't just affecting those coming and going to Chi-Town. Rebooking lines slowed other passengers hoping to board different flights.

"Been here in this line now going on 45 minutes and we've moved about...15 feet," said University of Texas at Arlington professor Dr. Gary Lacefield, who was trying to get to Portland, Oregon. "Oh, I'm going to miss my flight, and they [the airlines] don't care. The customer service people said, 'you have to get in the back of the line, there's none...we're sorry.'"

And how do you tell a prospective bride and groom that their wedding guests can't make it? Only some of the Auriemma family will make it to the rehearsal Friday night in Gainesville -- the ones that flew in from Phoenix.

"Half the family is from Chicago and they're all having a very difficult time getting here," Nannette Auriemma told us. "And they tried a different route, but they weren't going to get here until tomorrow. And so they decided to cancel."

They say at least two and as many as 10 guests won't be able to make it, including John Auriemma's daughter. "She was going to come down and meet us here and arrive around the same time. And her flight was canceled."

"It's going to be very disappointing that's for sure," Nannette told us. "Because it's not often that we get the whole family together."

This is the second time since May that a problem at a Chicago-area control facility prompted ground stops at O'Hare and Midway. In May, an electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elgin.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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