Whether by plane, car or train, hundreds of thousands of people are scrambling to get out of South Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, a massive system that forecasters say is the most powerful storm to hit the Atlantic Coast in more than a decade.
The storm, with maximum sustained winds near 185 mph, moved over the Leeward Islands Wednesday morning and is expected to hit the northern Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later in the day. Forecasters say it will reach South Florida sometime between Friday night and Monday.
There have been some flight cancellations, but in some cases, airlines are adding flights or using larger planes to accommodate surging demand. They are also offering fee waivers to travelers who want to cancel or reschedule their flights. Both American and Southwest airlines have a significant presence in Florida and the Caribbean. American has a hub at Miami International Airport and Southwest has a significant presence in Fort Lauderdale. Other airlines, including JetBlue, also recently began to offer service to airports in Cuba.
Travelers hoping to fly in or out of South Florida airports should expect cancellations and delays in the next couple of days. Officials in South Florida said travelers should prepare for more potential delays and cancellations as the storm nears the Florida Peninsula.
Airlines including Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United and American are offering to waive fees for travelers rebooking travel through cities in the path Hurricane Irma.
State officials say more mandatory evacuations would be ordered as the storm nears, and some urged residents to evacuate early and expect clogged roadways.
“Do not sit and wait for this storm to come,” Gov. Scott said in a tweet. “Remember, we can rebuild your home – not your life.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Lori Aratani, Luz Lazo