As Hurricane Dorian heads toward the Southeastern United States, airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees for flights to and from Florida and South Carolina, while Florida motorists trying to get out ahead of the storm will be spared from paying tolls.
The storm is disrupting travel over the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, when many are trying to squeeze in the last bit of vacation before the winter holidays.
Some airlines have canceled flights ahead of the storm.
As of late Sunday afternoon, airlines had canceled 580 flights scheduled for Monday, with four Florida airports — Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and the Sanford area — having the most, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. More than 200 flights were canceled into and out of Orlando International Airport and another 160 were canceled into and out of Fort Lauderdale.
Amtrak canceled some southeast service through Tuesday, including some trains between Miami and New York City and auto trains between Sanford, Fla. and Lorton, Va.
On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) suspended tolls on some highways, including the Florida Turnpike and Alligator Alley, to speed evacuations, as state highway crews buttoned up construction sites by removing or securing orange barrels and temporary signs.
As of Sunday afternoon, computer models showed the storm shifting closer to the coast compared to Saturday and moving toward Florida and the Southeastern United States, including coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Forecasters expect it to hit by midweek, but the exact track remains uncertain.
The hurricane’s unknown path has left transportation officials guessing.
Orlando International Airport announced Friday afternoon that it would cease flights starting at 2 a.m. Labor Day “out of an abundance of caution.” It then announced Saturday evening that, based on the hurricane’s changing path, it would remain open.
“Original storm forecasts reported the hurricane could have greatly impacted Orlando International and the entire Central Florida region,” the airport said in a statement. “The latest updates show that Hurricane Dorian has changed its path and has proven to be an unpredictable storm.”
Daytona Beach International Airport also had announced a Monday closure before changing course Sunday and saying it would remain open. The airport cautioned passengers on Twitter: “Remember, the airport is not a shelter.”
Both airports advised passengers to check with their airlines.
Southwest Airlines warned of delays and possible cancellations for flights in and out of six Florida cities and the Bahamas through Thursday and Charleston through Friday.
American Airlines said it would waive change and cancellation fees for certain Florida cities for flights through Wednesday if passengers met certain requirements. The same applies for American flights into and out of the Bahamas through Monday. Some airlines, such as Southwest, are also waiving pet fees for small dogs and cats traveling to and from Florida cities and Charleston.
Frontier Airlines also has waived change fees for its Florida cities, although customers must rebook to travel before Sept. 27. Those with canceled flights can request refunds, the airline said on its website.
Public officials also focused on ensuring gasoline supplies, even as some pumps ran dry by Sunday, as motorists fueled up ahead of the storm.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an executive order temporarily suspending federal rules limiting the hours that commercial truck drivers can drive to ensure an “uninterrupted supply” of gasoline, emergency supplies and food, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.