Hurricane Irma Strengthens to Category 5; Flights Disrupted

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Hurricane Irma has strengthened to an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm and is headed toward the United States and northern Caribbean.

According to the latest forecast from Accuweather, the storm is expected to bring damaging winds, flooding rain and rough surf to the northern Caribbean this week, with similar conditions playing out somewhere along the Gulf or Eastern coasts of the United States this weekend or next week, depending on the exact path of the storm. The more likely scenario at this point is a southern route that would bring rain and wind to South Florida as early as this weekend, although landfalls in Georgia or the Carolinas are also possible. The storm could also head into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast, said Evan Myers, expert senior meteorologist and chief operating officer. It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of HarveyThe U.S. has not sustained a direct hit from two Category 4 or above hurricanes in more than 100 years.


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Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state or emergency in anticipation of the storm. A state of emergency is also in effect for Puerto Rico. Major cruise lines with ships sailing out of Florida ports, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises, have already started making itinerary adjustments as well.

Flight Updates

A number of major airlines have issued change waivers for travelers who may be impacted by the hurricane.

American Airlines has a waiver in place for the following airports:

  • Anguilla Wallblake, Anguilla (AXA)
  • Antigua, Antigua (ANU)
  • Beef Island, British Virgin Islands (EIS)
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
  • St. Croix Island, U.S. Virgin Islands (STX)
  • St. Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis (SKB)
  • St. Maarten, Saint Maarten (SXM)
  • St. Thomas Island, U.S. Virgin Islands (STT)

Travelers must have bought their ticket by September 3 for travel through September 8. Rebooked travel must take place through September 12 between the same city pair in the same cabin (or pay the difference).

United Airlines also has a change waiver in place for Aguadilla (BQN) and San Juan in Puerto Rico for original travel through September 7, with rebooked travel to take place through September 11 in the original cabin between the same city pair.

Delta has issued a change waiver for San Juan, St. Croix, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for travel through September 6. The new ticket must be reissued on or before September 9 with rebooked travel to begin no later than that date.

Southwest Airlines has issued a waiver for travel through San Juan and Punta Cana through September 8. Travelers can rebook in the original class of service or travel standby within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pair.

Finally, JetBlue has issued a waiver for travel through Aguadilla, Antigua, Ponce, San Juan, St. Croix, St. Maarten and St. Thomas through September 6. Customers may rebook for travel through September 9 prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight. Customers with cancelled flights may also opt for a refund to the original form of payment.

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