Labor Day travel: Will Hurricane Earl threaten holiday travel plans?

Lon Anderson
Director of Public and Government Relations, AAA Mid-Atlantic
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 12:00 PM

More Americans plan to travel over the Labor Day weekend this year than last -- including almost 790,000 in the Washington region -- but those on the East Coast might think twice if tropical weather bears down by Friday.

Lon Anderson, director of public and government relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic, was online Thursday, Sept. 2, at Noon ET to discuss Labor Day travel and how Hurricane Earl may impact the weekend.


Lon Anderson: Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining the chat. I'm Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic and as many of you know we track and project holiday travel activity. Hurricane Earl is giving us some additional excitement here as we look at what's going to happen this Labor Day. Before Earl, we were projecting a robust travel period this weekend with some 790,000 area residents expected to be heading out of town. That's a 9% increase. Interestingly nearly 93% are projected to drive away. Given Earl's early appearance and with just a glancing blow being predicted, perhaps not much will change, but you can help let us know that. Is Earl changing your plans?


Silver Spring, Md.: Heading to Cape May, NJ tomorrow -- what would be the best time to leave given the storm, traffic, etc.? Thank you!

Lon Anderson: Hey--Silver Spring--Great question. What we're hearing right now is that tomorrowing there will be wind and rain early, with no actual hurricane conditions. Earl is supposed to remain at sea as it passes the NJ coast. However, if you are thinking about taking the ferry, it may not be operating--I'd check with the ferry folks. You may need to drive around rather than taing the ferry. We do expect heavy holiday traffic but much of it will be later tomorrow. So, by leaving mid-morning tomorrow you will likely miss much of the storm and beat the worst of the traffic. Please be careful!


Friday Airline Traffic: Is there any anticipated impact on airline flights from the south (East Tennessee) up to D.C .around mid-day tomorrow? Thank you.

Lon Anderson: Hey Friday--Great question. You should be all right, given that the storm seems to be veering eastward and the DC area may not even get any rain, but may have some wind. However, please check with your airline carrier. Several carriers such as Continental, Delta and AirTran have announced that pasengers will be able to make changes without penalty. Thanks for the great question! Be safe.


Bowie, Md.: We will be leaving for South Carolina early Friday morning about 3:00 a.m., heading down 301 or 95 and then going out rout 85. Is this a safe rout to travel or should we postpone our trip and leave on Saturday morning?

Lon Anderson: Hello Bowie--It appears that you should be OK, but please keep a close ear to the news. The storm, by the time you reach the North Carolina border--6-7am should be further north, and 95 is fairly far inland through central Virginia. so, this advice is if the storm stays on its eastward track, as currently projected. Please check the news before leaving. In times like this with a major hurricane lurking in the vicinity, being informed and prepared are your best weapons. Please pay special attention to how much damage you will be encountering where you are going, before heading out, as well. You don't want to drive into an area that has been hit badly and is without power, drinking water, etc. and would likely be closed to external traffic anyway. Hopefully that won't be the case. Be careful and be safe!


Friday Night Flights: I have a flight from D.C. to Boston scheduled for Friday evening. While a delay is not unexpected, should I worry about an outright cancellation?

Lon Anderson: Hey Friday Night Flights--Great question. I would be worried. You are headed right with the storm and current projections have it hitting the Cape tomorrow night. Right now, it looks like it could be a major blow, but the storm track could change. Keep checking the news and with your airline carrier. Good luck and be safe.


Washington, D.C.: We're actually looking for a last-minute getaway NEXT weekend. Will Earl result in any last minute deals? (We're talking about a weekend within driving distance.)

Lon Anderson: Hello Washington DC--Quite a bargain hunter? I would not be surprised if some of the beach resorts don't drop prices to lure back any missed business this holiday weekend. Besides, prices often drop after Labor Day in any case. Good luck and hope you find some bargains. You might check or other like-minded travel sights for some bargains as well.


Washington, D.C.: I haven't heard any discussion of conditions on I-95 early tomorrow. We were planning to head down to Wilmington, N.C. from D.C., leaving around 6 a.m. Bad idea, or is this thing going to be far enough to the east?

Lon Anderson: Hello Washington, DC--You should be in good shape. Earl is supposed to be moving up the coast by later tomorrow morning, so the worst should have passed the Carolinas. But as you get down there, there could be damage, downed lines, trees, roads closed and flooding, so watching the news tomorrow before you leave could be very important. Good luck and be safe


Hyattsville, Md.: Hello, I am not planning to travel anywhere this weekend. I am just wondering, what are the chances that the storm will reach this area? Thanks

Lon Anderson: Hyattsville--According to lastest storm tracks, it will almost miss our area completely--some clouds and wind, but spectacular wether this weekend. So, great weather for whatever you want to do in our region, and hopefully no more power outages to worry about! Enjoy!


Silver Spring, Md.: My sister-in-law is supposed to fly from Providence to BWI 8 a.m. Saturday morning.

We have considered having her take Amtrak late Friday night and arriving by train instead.

What do you think the chances are for delays/cancellations of flights originating from New England at that time?

Lon Anderson: Hello Silver Spring--so much depends on the actual path of the storm, but right now I would be worried. Looks like it will hit New Englnd Friday night, but much could change between now and then and if it does, we don't know if it will be a major hit or a glancing blow. But, your sister-in-law could certainly suffer flight delays or cancellation. Tough call and interesting question. Hope it works out for you!


Manassas, Va.: Lon, do you expect Amtrak's NE Corridor route to be running smoothly Saturday night?

Lon Anderson: Hey Manassas--Wow--great question. Of course we can only speculate right now, but if it does hit New England we often see flooding around Pawtucket RI and in the Providence area that could cause delays. Thoe areas are often problematic and Amtrak has already announced cancellation of some Virginia routes such as Richmond to Newport News. So, yes, we already have some disruption and the question now is how much more? Good luck.


Washington, D.C.: Does the Bay Bridge close if there are high winds?

Lon Anderson: Hey DC--The Bay Bridge does close in high winds, so crossing the Bridge while the storm is in close proximity--late tonight and early tomorrow morning could be problmatic. Remember that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has declared a state of emergency and urged tourists to delay their travel plans until the storn passes through. Be safe!


NYC: Thanks so much for doing this chat! I'm anxiously monitoring weather maps online, but having a hard time figuring out if my flight plans will be affected. Flying tonight (8:30) from JFK to Jacksonville. Should I expect a problem?

Lon Anderson: Hey NYC--getting out tonight might be OK, but as Earl moves north later flights could see some disruption. Also remember that sometimes cancellations elsewhere can cascade through the system and cause wider disruptions. Keep intouch with both the wether forecasts and your airline carrier. Best of luck and pack some dramamine!


Clifton, Va.: Don't forget Jimmy Buffett is at Jiffy Lube tonight and Saturday night. His tailgaters should already be affecting traffic on I66E as of right now!

Lon Anderson: Clifton, VA--so you're going to Margaritaville? You are right that 66 E or W is almost always slammed.

Jimmy Buffet is known to say, "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" and for me that means I've got to depart. This has been great, thanks so much for the great questions, and here's hoping eveyone survives Earl and enjoys a great and safe holiday weekend. Please put safety first in your travels and do not, under any circumstance, take the party on the road. Police will be out in force this holiday as they are every holiday weekend, to help keep us safe. Happy Labor Day!


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company