The storm that turned the metro area into a giant icebox wasn't the real culprit in the cancellation of more than 1,200 flights at the four major airports Wednesday.

It was storms across the United States, which kept planes from reaching our area, as well as fearful travelers canceling their bookings into and out of Kennedy, LaGuardia, MacArthur and Newark.

"Our runways and taxiways are all clear," Port Authority of New York & New Jersey spokeswoman Jennifer Friedberg said of Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark. "They've been clear all day."

And MacArthur spokeswoman Catherine Green said the airport had been open to general aviation all day, even though Southwest Airlines canceled 18 flights to and from MacArthur. The airline said it will resume operations around 5 p.m.

But storms in Chicago, the Midwest, Dallas and the South caused massive disruptions to air travel across the country, officials said.

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LaGuardia saw 633 canceled flights Wednesday, Newark 460 and Kennedy 285.

The Port Authority posted alerts on its website advising travelers that weather had "caused disruptions in flight activity" at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark. Most major airlines have also posted travel advisories for flights using MacArthur, Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark between now and Thursday - in some cases offering travelers the chance to change or rebook flights over a 14-day span with no fee.

Travelers are being advised to contact their air carriers before heading to the airport.