High winds and heavy rainfall Friday forced nearly 50 flights to be cancelled at the Edmonton International Airport.

While strong cross winds were largely to blame for the flight cancellations, runway reconstruction at the airport made problems worse, said the EIA's Heather Hamilton.

Normally when there are high winds, Hamilton said the flights can be diverted to another runway.

“The challenge for us is again because we have that major reconstruction of the runway ongoing, only one runway is available,” she said. “That puts all the aircraft in the cross wind position, which is a tricky landing to do.”

Hamilton said it is up to individual airlines to decide whether it is safe to fly.  

WestJet's Robert Palmer said the airline suspended all flights at Edmonton International until 5 p.m. MT.

A wind warning for the area had been in effect earlier, but has since ended. However, Palmer says the problem still persists.

airport lineups

Strong cross winds caused flight cancellations in and out of Edmonton International Airport on Friday. (Karen Kwan/CBC News )

“The cross winds are so severe that they are above the operating limits for [the safety threshold] of a 737,” he said.

Some flights bound for Edmonton were diverted to Calgary. The airport says that delays or diversions will continue throughout the day. By mid-Friday afternoon, about 48 flights had been cancelled or diverted.

Isabella Kroll was trying to get to Poland so she could attend her mother’s funeral.

“I don’t know if I’m going to make it,” she said. “We have 700 people, thousands of people waiting in line. I hope I’m going to make it but this is terrible.”

Air Canada said that it would be running extra flights on Saturday between Edmonton and Toronto and Edmonton and Vancouver.

Hamilton is advising travellers to check the EIA website before heading to the airport.

There were reports that the flights were diverted due to earthworms on the runway, which Hamilton said isn’t true.

Sweepers were out this morning making sure there was no standing water on the runway.

“That’s just to make sure that there’s no water on the runway that’s going to potentially cause a safety issue of skidding or hydroplaning on the runway,” Hamilton said.

She said the sweepers could be used to clean up earthworms after the storm.

“We usually do it as a preventative measure just because we don’t want them to attract birds.”