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Trains canceled, airports reduce operations as East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence

U.S. Coast Guard warns about hurricane conditions and calls on vessels to seek safe harbor.

September 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Amtrak is canceling service south of Washington ahead of Hurricane Florence. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hur­ri­cane Florence is rap­id­ly ap­proach­ing the East Coast — and is already disrupting air and rail travel. As of Tuesday afternoon, airports in the storm's path were announcing reduced operations, while south of Washington, inter-city rail riders faced disruptions in service starting Wednesday.

This storm is likely to have a ma­jor im­pact on road­ways, as well as air and rail trav­el through the week­end. If you have any plans to trav­el — par­tic­u­lar­ly to and from the Mid-Atlantic and the South­east — start think­ing a­bout chan­ging them now.

Related: ‘We’re in the bull’s eye’: Evacuation orders multiply as Hurricane Florence churns toward East Coast

Am­trak said Mon­day it is starting canceling serv­ice to points south of Washington start­ing Wednes­day and through the week­end. The North­east Regional serv­ice will op­er­ate only north of Washington beginning Thursday. The chan­ges affect the Auto Train, Silver Me­te­or, Crescent, Car­o­lin­ian, Pied­mont and Silver Star trains, among others. (See Amtrak's full list below)

Am­trak is also waiv­ing fees for travelers and said it will ac­com­mo­date cus­tom­ers on oth­er trains. Airlines, in­clud­ing Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit and American, said travelers can change their flights with­out pen­al­ties for trav­el to and from the re­gion for trips Thursday through Sunday. American Airlines said it is has issued a travel alert for more than 30 airports, including hubs in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

By Tuesday afternoon, FlightAware.com reported more than 180 Wednesday flights had been canceled nationwide, with many of the disruptions in the Carolinas. However, that number is expected to rise Wednesday and Thursday, with the potential for thousands of flights to be canceled through the weekend.

Charleston International Airport said it anticipates its runways to close by midnight Wednesday. But some airlines were already announcing plans to cease operations. Southwest and Frontier said they would stop their Charleston flight operations Tuesday afternoon while JetBlue was planning to end flights at midnight, the airport said. Other airlines, including United and Alaska, planned to continue their operations through Wednesday.

Myrtle Beach International Airport said it plans to remain open during the storm to enable commercial flights in and out of the region.The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday said it was upgrading conditions on the region's ports to warn the maritime community about anticipated hurricane-force winds in coming days. Vessels more than 500 gross tons should make preparations to leave port or seek permission to remain in port, the Coast Guard said.

"The Coast Guard strongly cautions the maritime community to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions as Florence approaches,” the agency said in a morning statement. “Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor."

Hur­ri­cane Florence was in­ten­si­fy­ing on its path to­ward the East Coast on Mon­day when it be­came a Cate­go­ry 4 storm with 130 mph winds, ac­cord­ing to the National Hur­ri­cane Center. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang said the storm is ex­pect­ed to strength­en to 150 mph just be­fore land­fall some­where along the South­east or Mid-Atlantic coast Thurs­day night.

Related: Virginia governor orders mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas ahead of Hurricane Florence

"With each pass­ing flight into the eye of the storm and every new com­puter mod­el fore­cast, it has be­come in­creas­ing­ly un­like­ly that Florence will turn out to sea and spare the Eastern Seaboard from po­ten­tial­ly deva­stat­ing storm surge, flood­ing and wind,” The Capital Weather Gang re­port­ed in its fore­cast Mon­day. “There’s even some in­di­ca­tion that the hur­ri­cane will slow or stall out over the Mid-Atlantic later this week, which could lead to a dis­as­trous a­mount of rain."


Luz Lazo is a transportation reporter at The Washington Post covering passenger and freight transportation, buses, taxis and ride-sharing services. She also writes about traffic, road infrastructure and air travel in the Washington region and beyond. She joined The Post in 2011.

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