Airports, Cruise Ports Shut Down as Hurricane Florence Hits Carolinas

Before sunrise, high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro NC. // Photo by AP Photo/Tom Copeland via Newscred

Cruise ports and airports have shut down as Hurricane Florence strikes the Carolinas, causing travel disruptions across the southeastern United States

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Charleston AFB, Florence Regional, Wilmington International and a number of other small airports in the southeast have closed due to the hurricane. Additionally, the cruise port in Charleston will remain closed through at least Saturday. 

The National Hurricane Center reports that the storm made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, and it is expected to move inland across southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina through Saturday, after which the storm will turn north, heading across the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains through early next week. Hurricane Florence currently has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph -- with gusts reported as high as 105 mph at Wilmington International Airport -- and the storm is expected to weaken significantly over the weekend and into early next week as it moves farther inland. 

Hurricane warnings remain in effect for an area ranging from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, as well as Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A hurricane watch is in effect for an area ranging from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to South Santee River, South Carolina. A tropical storm warning is in effect for an area ranging from north of Duck to Cape Charles Light, Virginia; the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort; and an area ranging from Edisto Beach to South Santee River. The National Hurricane Center is also warning of life-threatening storm surges, rainfall with the potential to produce flash floods and river flooding, and the possibility of a few tornadoes in eastern North Carolina on Friday. 

NBC News reports that Florence has caused approximately 455,000 households to lose power due to flooding and downed trees. Approximately 200 people had to be rescued overnight, although there have been no immediate reports of deaths. 

Cruise Updates

With the cruise port in Charleston closed, Carnival Cruise Line reports that it still plans to operate Carnival Ecstasy’s sailing, which is scheduled for Sunday, assuming local authorities have been able to complete post-storm assessments and reopen the port. 

Carnival also revised the itineraries for both the Carnival Pride and the Carnival Horizon. On Carnival Pride’s September 9 sailing out of Baltimore, instead of stopping at Bermuda September 12 – 14, the ship called at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport, the Bahamas. On Carnival Horizon's eight-day sailing out of New York that departed September 5, the line cancelled Sunday’s planned call in San Juan, and moved Monday’s planned call at Amber Cove to Tuesday. The ship returned to New York as planned September 13.

Royal Caribbean reports that it modified Grandeur of the Seas’ September 8 sailing, replacing its planned call in Bermuda. The ship spent a full day in Nassau, the Bahamas, on Tuesday, and arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida, Wednesday, where it will stay through Thursday. The cruise line said that it expects to arrive back in Baltimore no later than Sunday, September 16. 

Norwegian Cruise Line has modified itineraries for both the Norwegian Escape and the Norwegian Dawn. On Norwegian Escape’s September 9 itinerary out of New York City, the ship is calling in Port Canaveral, Florida, and Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas to avoid Hurricane Florence's path, instead of calling in Bermuda as planned. On Norwegian Dawn’s September 7 itinerary out of Boston, the ship is calling in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia; St. John, New Brunswick; and Bar Harbor, Maine, instead of calling in Bermuda.

A spokesperson for Oceania Cruises reports that the luxury line has modified Sirena's September 7 itinerary to bypass the ship's Bermuda call, which had been scheduled for September 12 and 13. Instead, the ship will call at Nassau on September 15, before returning to Miami the next day. Oceania has also modified Insignia’s September 7 itinerary out of Halifax to stay north of Hurricane Florence’s forecast track, with revised ports of call in New Brunswick, Maine, and New York instead of Bermuda.

Air Travel Change Waivers and Updates

American Airlines warns that Hurricane Florence will disrupt travel through its Charlotte hub, as well as other airports in the southeastern United States. Customers set to fly through September 17 can rebook through September 21 and/or change their origin or destination to another city affected by the airline's alert or to Baltimore, Washington - Reagan or Washington - Dulles. Customers can also rebook after September 21, so long as rebooked travel is completed wtihin one year of the ticket date. A difference in fare may apply. 

American is also waiving fees for checked bags, overweight/oversized bags and carry-on pets for customers traveling on or before September 17 from airports set to be affected by the hurricane. 

Delta is allowing customers set to fly through September 17 to rebook through September 21, with rebooked travel to begin no later than that date. When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 21, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. The airline is also waiving checked bag and pet fees for affected customers. 

On United Airlines, customers flying through the southeastern United States through September 16 can rebook through September 20 between the same city pair in the originally ticketed cabin. They can also rebook after September 20, or change their departure or destination city, in which case the change fee will be waived but a difference in fare may apply. The airline is also waiving fees for bags and in-cabin pets for flights through affected airports through September 16. Customers who have already paid a fee will be automatically issued a refund. 

Southwest Airlines is allowing customers flying through the southeastern United States through September 17 to rebook in the original class of service or travel standby within 14 days of their original date of travel.

On JetBlue, travelers scheduled to fly through the southeastern United States through September 17 can rebook through September 21.

Frontier Airlines is allowing customers set to fly through September 16 to rebook, with rebooked travel to be completed through October 1. Origin and destination cities may be changed, and customers with cancelled flights may request a refund. 

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