Airlines have canceled more than 9,000 flights up and down the East Coast of the United States throughout the path of Hurricane Irene, which was downgraded to a Category One storm.
It is the first hurricane of the 2011 season, making landfall on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina about 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday morning, August 27, losing energy, but maintaining sustained winds of 85 mph or higher, and continuing northeast up the Eastern Seaboard, according to reports by CBS News, CBC, Voice of America, the Associated Press, and multiple other international media sources published on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
According to the FlightStats web site interactive airport delay map, 21 airports from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) in Alabama to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) in Buffalo New York, show up as red, indicating excessive delays.
Hardest hit were John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) where 99% of the listed scheduled flights are shown as canceled. All of the metropolitan airports serving New York City have grounded most flights, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), Stewart International (SWF), and Teterboro (TEB) airports, halting both domestic and international flights.
There are dramatic photos of Hurricane Irene in the extended slide show and attached video clip which accompany this report.
CBS News reported that Delta Air Lines (DL) said Friday afternoon that it would cancel 1,300 flights this weekend, about 8% of its total flights, and shut down entirely at New York-area airports on Sunday. Earlier, JetBlue Airways (B6) said it was scrubbing about 880 flights, most of them to and from hub airports in New York and Boston between Saturday and Monday.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that military aircraft have taken shelter at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL). According to the paper, Southwest Airlines (WN), the largest carrier at Lambert, announced plans to temporarily suspend service to and from Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday, with service resuming once conditions improve.
International travelers trying to return home to the United Kingdom and other European destinations have been stranded, with disruptions extending across the border to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and other Canadian flight centers. It is estimated that about 5,000 to 10,000 British tourists may be trying to return home from their vacations.
Ground transportation has also been disrupted. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) to shut down operations, the first time in recent memory, since the Category Five 1938 New England hurricane, has such a systemwide outage happened, with the exception of various regional power outages that hit the northeast electrical grid on several occasions, including the Northeast Blackout of 1965 and 2003.
Amtrak has also either suspended or warned of stopping most of its passenger train service.
The full impact of the storm is not expected to be felt in the New York region until 9:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 27, but businesses, including restaurants, and Midtown Manhattan theater district have already closed. Shoppers have stocked up on groceries, emptying some supermarket shelves, and evacuating some coastal beach communities, extending eastward into Long Island.
According to an ABC News video report, travelers who are trying to fly to New York from Los Angeles are either finding that flights are unavailable, or the earliest guaranteed return bookings are available on Tuesday, August 30.
Whenever there are extreme weather delays, carriers will usually waive change of travel fees, and accommodate those holding confirmed reservations on later flights.
The best advice under such conditions is to find shelter, stay indoors, and check with your individual airline for the latest flight information. Other good online sources include FligtAware, FlightStats, the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center flight delay map, and the National Weather Service.
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