Hurricane Florence has already been a major contributor to more than 2000 flight cancellations across the US as it delivers pounding rain and strong winds to the mid-Atlantic states.
The downgraded category 1 hurricane started pummeling the Carolinas Thursday (US time), leaving hundreds of thousands without power amid warnings of dangerous storm surges and flooding.
It made landfall Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and was moving slowly westward.
Storm surges of 10ft above normal levels had been reported by 11pm Eastern Time Thursday and remained a worry in some areas Friday.
The biggest concern, however, was flooding triggered by heavy rainfall of up to 40 inches (10cms) in some areas.
Doppler radar indicated winds near 70mph (110kmh) Friday with higher gusts and the storm had been further downgraded to tropical storm.
“Gradual weakening is expected tonight,” the US National Hurricane Center said in its 5pm Friday update. “Significant weakening is forecast over the weekend and into early next week while Florence moves farther inland.”
US airlines began the arduous process of canceling flights before the hurricane, initially feared to reach the US as a monster category 4 storm, arrived.
Initial expectations were that it could affect flights into Charleston International. Officials at the South Carolina airport closed Charleston to all air traffic Wednesday evening, September 12. Closures were also announced for Fayetteville, Jacksonville and Wilmington.
Florence also triggered cancellations at a far busier North Carolina airport: Charlotte-Douglas International (CLT).
According to CLT, the North Carolina airfield is the sixth busiest airport in the world offering more than 160 nonstop destinations around the globe.
CLT oversees more than 700 departures and landings each day and is served by seven domestic carriers and three foreign flag carriers.
The airport is also American Airlines’ second largest hub and the second largest airport on the East Coast. What happens at Charlotte has a ripple effect throughout AA’s system.
American said on Thursday it had canceled 820 flights from September 12 to September 16.
The US Federal Aviation Administration late Wednesday issued advice to travelers warning of cancelations and delays in the direct path of the storm as well as in its aftermath.
“Once Hurricane Florence makes ground fall, airports may be listed as “open” but flooding on local roadways may limit access to airports for passengers, as well as the employees who work for the airlines or at the airport,” it said.
“As a result, every aspect of your trip to the airport, including parking, checking in, getting through security and boarding may take longer than usual.
“As always, check with airlines about the status of your flight before you leave for the airport.” Major carriers provide flight status updates on their website.”
Just how long the disruption will be is up to the extent of the havoc Florence sews in her devasting journey along the United States’ Middle Atlantic coastline.
Here are websites for major US airlines: