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The nation’s airlines are slashing flights by the minute in anticipation of Northeast’s winter weather.

The website FlightAware.com is keeping tabs on up-to-the-minute cancellations, which numbered more than 3,000 by Friday morning. United, which has a hub at Newark Liberty International, led the cancellation race; Delta was second.

And even though the airlines might wait until the day before a storm to announce a flight’s been grounded, they could have made that decision a few days prior.

“You’re planning out as far as you can rely on weather forecasts,” says aviation consultant Robert Mann.

Mann says the main reason for the early planning is to keep passengers from being stranded.

But carriers also want to get their planes and crew out of the storm’s path, so they fly them to other airports until the weather improves. Coordinating that can be a logistical challenge, but it’s not the only one the airlines face.

“One of the biggest problems with these snowstorms is actually getting airport staff to the airport in order to serve customers,” says Mann. “The same problem the general population has -- getting around -- applies to employees who need to get to work at the airports.”

The weather can even affect planes that don’t carry passengers.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg says the company has an entire contingency team looking at how to re-route packages, if necessary.