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.
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.
"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."