With fresh reports that Hurricane Irma is likely to make landfall in Florida on Sunday, more airports around the state are preparing to close down. The rush to get out is only intensifying as forecasters continue to warn that Irma will be a hurricane of epic proportions unlike anything that has hit the United States in recent memory. Airports urged travelers to arrive early and be prepared for long lines.
Key West International Airport closed Wednesday night and said all commercial flights would be suspended until further notice. St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport closed Friday. Airports in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale also said they would cease commercial operations starting Saturday. Other airports, including Miami International and Palm Beach International, said they are continuing to monitor conditions.
Officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said they will close Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10. The airport’s 14,500 parking spaces are full, and officials continue to urge people to find other parking at other off-site locations or find other ways to get to Fort Lauderdale if they are planning to leave on Friday.
Orlando International Airport will end commercial operations at 5 p.m. on Saturday, officials said, noting that the last time the airport was closed to commercial traffic was during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Officials at Tampa International Airport also will end commercial operations at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
More than 1,500 flights were canceled Friday, according to FlightAware.com, including nearly 600 into and out of Miami International Airport. American Airlines, which has a hub in Miami, had previously announced it would end operations Friday evening.
Officials at Southwest Airlines also said they will cancel all flights to and from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach airports beginning Friday evening; Flights to and from Orlando will stop in the afternoon on Saturday. The cancellations will extend through at least Sunday. In Tampa, the airline will cancel service Saturday evening through Sunday; all of Southwest’s flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday to Nassau, the Bahamas and Havana have been canceled.
Flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, scheduled for Friday, have also been halted. The airline said it may resume service to Punta Cana on Saturday and restart service to San Juan when conditions permit.
Airport officials across Florida cautioned people against using airports as hurricane shelters. Fort Lauderdale will offer shuttle service starting Friday afternoon to transport travelers unable to fly out to a hurricane shelter at a nearby elementary school.
Airlines, including JetBlue, Delta, American and United, this week added flights and said they would cap fares for those fleeing the hurricane zone. The move came after complaints earlier this week of astronomically high fares for one-way tickets out of several Florida cities.
While there were long lines at airports there was only one major incident reported. At Miami International Airport, police shot a man who entered a restricted area and then managed to get on the tarmac Thursday night. Authorities said the man was acting erratically and also had a knife.
Parking garages at Miami International Airport were also full.