Hurricane Irma cancels more than 10,000 flights
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Hurricane Irma canceled 10,000 flights and counting across the Southeast, closed airports throughout Florida, halted a weekend of ocean cruises from some of the busiest ports and closed Disney resorts near Orlando. Next, the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta could have flights disrupted as early as Monday, as the storm moves north.
The Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds blew farther west than initially expected, inundating the Florida Keys and aiming for the west coast of the peninsula.
But because of Irma’s counter-clockwise winds thrashing the peninsula’s east coast, airports from Miami to Jacksonville closed Saturday evening. South Florida airports can’t say yet when they’ll reopen.
“The worst is yet to come for Southeast Florida,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CNN as he hunkered down with his family inside his boarded-up Miami home. “I know people who went to Georgia and are now figuring out how to get out of Georgia because it’s headed there.”
Irma already canceled 10,699 flights through Monday by 9 a.m. Sunday, according to FlightAware.com, an online tracking service.
Among the airports that closed Saturday for commercial flights are Key West, Naples, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville.
In Miami, the airport said all flights “have been cancelled until further notice.” Fort Lauderdale’s airport, which said the “strongest winds and heaviest rain” were expected Sunday, likewise said “there is no scheduled reopening.”
Airlines have offered to waive bag fees and fees to change flights across the Southeast. United Airlines, for example, waived change fees for flights through Sept. 17 at 10 airports from Georgia to North Carolina, and through Sept. 30 for dozens airports across Florida and the Caribbean.
At the Orlando airport, workers tied down jet bridges and covered computer equipment inside the terminal with plastic. Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World all closed on Saturday through at least Monday.
“Orlando International will resume operations as quickly as possible,” said Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “Once the weather allows our damage assessment teams to inspect the facilities and infrastructure we will begin the recovery process to make sure Orlando International is once again safe and secure for the traveling public.”
Irma also canceled cruises Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from Florida. The ports of Miami and Port Canaveral are the two busiest cruise ports in the world, moving nearly 10 million passengers a year between them, and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, is the world’s third busiest cruise port.
Atlanta, which has the busiest airport in the world, is next. The National Weather Service posted a tropical-storm watch for Atlanta early Sunday. The warning means that tropical peak winds are expected to reach 30 to 40 mph, with gusts of up to 55 mph, in the next day.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with nearly 45 million passengers a year, anticipates the storm to begin affecting flights early Monday.
Delta Air Lines, which is based in Atlanta, offered waivers for passengers to change travel plans with three dozen destinations through Sept. 17 for flights affected by Irma. The airline suggested travelers look for other hubs in planning their trips.