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Cabinet secretary postpones Mass. visit as flights are canceled due to severe weather

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra testified on Capitol Hill in May. He had to postpone a trip to Boston on Friday after severe weather delayed or canceled thousands of flights Friday.Pete Marovich/NYT

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was forced on Friday to postpone his trip to Massachusetts to participate in a forum on Black maternal health and reproductive rights, due to “severe weather canceling all his flight options,” a spokesperson said.

The weather in Washington, D.C., was treacherous Thursday evening, when four people were struck by lightning outside the White House. Authorities on Friday morning confirmed that two of the victims, James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisc., had died from the injuries they suffered in the lighting strike, which occurred in Lafayette Park, located directly outside the White House complex.

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Becerra had been slated to join Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and US Representative Ayanna Pressley at a 2 p.m. roundtable discussion on the health crisis and reproductive rights.

The roundtable was to take place a day after Vice President Kamala Harris joined Governor Charlie Baker, Pressley, and other officials in Dorchester for a forum where they affirmed their support for abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

But on Friday, Becerra postponed his trip to Massachusetts.

An HHS spokesperson confirmed Friday morning via e-mail that Becerra “will not be able to make it to Boston today unfortunately due to severe weather canceling all his flight options. We are working on re-scheduling his trip for this fall.”

A Pressley spokesperson confirmed separately that Friday’s event was postponed until further notice.

The aviation website flightaware.com reported Friday morning that Reagan National Airport in Washington had logged 208 flight cancellations in the prior 24 hours.

Nationwide, 2,445 flights traveling within, into, or out of the United States were delayed Friday, and 962 flights were canceled, the website was reporting just before noon.

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Delays and cancellations have plagued air travel for months now. The global COVID-19 crisis prompted airlines to cut costs by suspending hiring and offering early retirement packages to employees. Now that airport crowds are surpassing pre-pandemic levels, airlines are scrambling to keep up.

In Boston, Logan International Airport saw delays and cancellations several times during the spring, most notably on Memorial Day weekend, when more than 1,400 flights were nixed nationwide.

Material from the Associated Press and from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.