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Tornado damage cancels hundreds of flights from Dallas-Fort Worth

As tornadoes cause damage in the Dallas area, NBC's Gabe Gutierrez at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport reports passengers have been taken off planes and taken into the terminal for their safety.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the eighth busiest in the world, is trying to return to normal service after as many as a dozen tornadoes pummeled the area on Tuesday afternoon.

Nearly 500 flights across the nation were canceled Wednesday. 

American Airlines and American Eagle, which operate a hub at DFW, canceled more than 500 arriving and departing flights in the U.S. on Wednesday, according to FlightStats.com. American typically operates 1,500 flights a day at DFW.

Tuesday’s storms “caused varying degrees of hail damage to more than 100 aircraft at the airport,” DFW said in a statement. “Airline personnel are conducting individual aircraft assessments to determine the extent of the impact.”

A return to normal for the airport "will be measured in days, not hours," said airport spokesperson David Magana.

Related: Tornado videos show flying semi-trailers, golf ball-sized hail

American Airlines spokesperson Tim Smith said the carrier will inspect 94 jets for hail damage throughout Wednesday.

Smith said that the impact of the storm should be limited to the DFW and not lead to a ripple effect of delays and cancellations for American Airlines flights across the country. He said the airline is re-routing passengers who have connecting flights in Dallas on Wednesday through other airports, including Chicago O'Hare.

"We're working on this as fast as possible and we appreciate everyone's patience," Smith said.

The early warning for the storm -- the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was tracking the storm for more than an hour before it reached there -- enabled people to get to safety, officials said.  At the height of the storm, passengers were herded away from windows and into stairwells and restrooms, Magana said.

About 1,400 passengers spent Tuesday night in terminals after their flights were canceled. They were provided with cots, blankets and toiletry kits, airport officials said. Thousands of other passengers booked hotel rooms or made other lodging arrangements. 

Southwest Airlines reported on Twitter that they were "back to business" with flights landing at Love Field on Tuesday evening. American Airlines was responding by the minute Wednesday morning to tweets from frustrated passengers who reported long customer service hold times and difficulty rebooking canceled flights.

Related: Mom recounts saving daughters from 'terrifying' tornado

"We’re so sorry for the delay," said one response. "The weather has not been our friend yesterday and today."

DFW officials are urging passengers to call ahead or check with their airlines prior to showing up to the airport.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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