U.S. winter 'bomb cyclone' causes some Bay Area flight delays, cancellations

A Christmas week winter "bomb cyclone" of blizzards, downpours and flooding across some of the United States is wreaking havoc on holiday travel, with the Bay Area mostly being spared from the stormy conditions.

But those flying from California to the most affected areas – the Plains, Great Lakes and Midwest – might not be able to get there. The Northeast will also be affected later this week. 

Early Thursday morning, San Francisco International Airport had 16 canceled flights, Oakland had nine and San Jose had 8, with dozens more delays.

Holiday travel nightmare: 44 bags get left behind on flight bound for Oakland

One mother in Oakland was hoping her son would be able to fly from Ohio to San Francisco for Christmas, but she also knew it was possible he wouldn't reunite with her in time.

"I might just have to go skiing by myself," she said. 

Seepa Esposito, who was at SFO early Thursday, said she was hoping to get to New York.

"I'm just concerned we not be able to," she said. "It's a bit of a concern at the moment."

Compare that though to O'Hare Airport in Chicago, which by 8 a.m. had 424 flight cancelations and 168 flight cancelations at Midway Airport. The Denver airport also had more than 300 cancellations. 

Southwest and United are the airlines most impacted as they have hubs in the eye of the storm. 

California is largely avoiding these harsh conditions because, as the San Francisco Chronicle's weather team explained, three mountain ranges — the Rockies, the Southern Cascades and the Sierra Nevada — will protect the Golden State from the frigid air that will reach much of the rest of the country, keeping the coldest, subzero temperatures hoisted in the hills.

Dwayne Smith, however, wasn't completely protected from the West Coast mountain range.

He and his family were up all night, finally able to make it from Washington state to SFO because of a chain reaction of delayed flights on the East Coast.

"We finally got our flight," he said. "And then we flew to Las Vegas, and it was delayed."

But in the end, Smith is hoping for a warmer Christmas.

He and his family eventually hopped on board a flight to Hawaii.