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After leaving utter devastation in its wake, Hurricane Irma is currently pounding the coast of Cuba and is expected to make a fateful turn toward Florida on Saturday afternoon. The massive hurricane is projected to make landfall in the Keys on Sunday morning and continue up the coast of Florida during the day Sunday, maintaining its “major hurricane” status. 5.6 million Floridians are currently under a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

Photos from Saint Martin are absolutely heartbreaking and show the incredible power of the storm bearing down on the Florida coast:

Even though the forecast track continues to shift westward, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — located near Daytona Beach on Florida’s east coast — isn’t risking its aircraft. A “conga line” of aircraft were evacuated to Birmingham this morning:

Last week, TPG’s Zach Honig was on what was supposed to be the final Delta 747 domestic flight. But on Thursday, we found out that Delta had added another 747 flight to help move passengers out of Florida. Well, Delta is continuing to run 747s between Orlando (MCO) and Detroit (DTW), and as of Saturday morning, FlightRadar24 reported three Delta 747s are currently in service ferrying evacuees out of Central Florida.

FORECAST

Irma made landfall in Cuba Friday night as a Category 5 hurricane. This makes it the first Category 5 hurricane to do so since 1924. While the Cuban landfall is terrible news for those in the area, it’s a positive development for the residents of Florida, as the interaction with land has weakened the storm and broken up its previously superb organization. Top sustained winds have dropped to 125 mph as of 11am Saturday.

However, re-strengthening is expected once the hurricane moves back over warm waters. Florida landfall is currently projected with 140 mph top sustained winds, and hurricane-force winds now extend 70 miles out from the center, meaning that a 140+ mile wide swath of destructive winds will sweep up Florida’s west coast.

Irma forecast cone 11am 9-9-2017

As the storm continues further westward, the forecast is drastically changing for South Florida. Miami and the east coast of Florida are now spared much of the devastation that seemed to be all but assured a couple of days ago. However, Southwest Florida is expected to be ground zero, with “catastrophic storm surge flooding” inundating the coast with 10-15 feet of water above normal sea level.

As for the Keys, the National Weather Center doesn’t understate the situation:

TRAVEL WAIVERS

Many airlines have released travel waivers allowing you to change your travel plans. If you aren’t in the area yet, these weather waivers will let you rebook your trip to avoid the region until the storm passes. For those in the area, many flights are full and airports are shutting down operations. So, it’s unlikely that these will do you much good now.

Below is a map of all the airports affected by waivers:

Weather waiver airports Irma 9-9-2017

If you are stuck due to the storm, airlines aren’t going to be responsible for paying for your meals or hotels in the case of weather-related delays/cancellations. That’s why we recommend paying for flights with cards that have flight delay/cancellation insurance that can reimburse you for weather issues, including the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 3+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay). My Citi Prestige came in handy a few weeks ago when I got stuck in Japan due to a typhoon-related flight cancellation.

As of this writing, here are the available travel waivers for this storm:

Alaska

  • Travel dates: September 6-12
  • Airports affected: Havana (HAV); Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Orlando (MCO); Tampa (TPA)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 6
  • Rebook travel anytime through September 19
  • You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all.
  • Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before September 12, 2017.

Cancellations:

  • Alaska Airlines and Virgin America operated flights into and out of Fort Lauderdale are canceled for September 8-11, 2017.
  • Alaska Airlines flight 9 between Orlando and Seattle will operate September 9, 2017.
  • All other Alaska Airlines and Virgin America operated flights into and out of Orlando are canceled for September 9-11, 2017.
  • Alaska Airlines operated flights into and out of Tampa are canceled for September 9-11, 2017.
  • Alaska Airlines operated flights into and out of Havana are canceled for September 9-10, 2017.

American Airlines

Check website for waivers for Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Bahamas

FLORIDA

  • Travel dates: September 5-17
  • Airports affected: Daytona Beach, Florida (DAB); Destin / Fort Walton Beach, Florida (VPS); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL); Fort Myers, Florida (RSW); Gainesville, Florida (GNV); Jacksonville, Florida (JAX); Key West, Florida (EYW); Melbourne, Florida (MLB); Miami, Florida (MIA); Orlando, FL (MCO); Palm Beach, Florida (PBI); Pensacola, Florida (PNS); Tallahassee, Florida (TLH); Tampa, Florida (TPA); Sarasota, Florida (SRQ)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 5
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 5-30
  • You can change your origin or destination city within 600 miles. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

GEORGIA & SOUTH CAROLINA COAST

  • Travel dates: September 6-17
  • Airports affected: Charleston, South Carolina (CHS); Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH); Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR); Savannah, Georgia (SAV)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 6
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 6-30
  • You can change your origin or destination city within 600 miles. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

INLAND GEORGIA & CAROLINAS

  • Travel dates: September 10-12
  • Airports affected: Asheville, North Carolina (AVL); Atlanta, Georgia (ATL); Augusta, Georgia (AGS); Birmingham, Alabama (BHM); Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP); Huntsville, Alabama (HSV); Montgomery, Alabama (MGM)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 8
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 8-14
  • Cannot change origin or destination. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Delta

  • Travel dates: September 5-17 [dates extended]
  • Airports affected: Albany, GA (ABY); Atlanta, GA (ATL); Augusta, GA (AGS); Brunswick, GA (BQK); Charleston, SC (CHS); Columbus, GA (CSG); Daytona Beach, FL (DAB); Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, FL (FLL); Fort Myers, FL (RSW); Fort Walton Beach, FL (VPS); Freeport, BS (FPO); Gainesville, FL (GNV); Georgetown, BS (GGT); Havana, CU (HAV); Jacksonville, FL (JAX); Key West, FL (EYW); Marsh Harbour, BS (MHH); Melbourne, FL (MLB); Miami, FL (MIA); Nassau, BS (NAS); Orlando, FL (MCO); Panama City, FL (ECP); Pensacola, FL (PNS); Punta Cana, DO (PUJ); Sarasota/Bradenton, FL (SRQ); Savannah, GA (SAV); St. Maarten, SX (SXM); San Juan, PR (SJU); Santiago, DO (STI); St. Croix, VI (STX); St. Thomas, VI (STT); Tallahassee, FL (TLH); Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater, FL (TPA); Turk Caicos ISLS, TC (PLS); Valdosta, GA (VLD); West Palm Beach, FL (PBI)
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 30 [dates extended]
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 30, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.

Frontier

  • Travel dates: September 5-13
  • Airports affected: Atlanta, GA (ATL); Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL); Orlando, FL (MCO); Miami, FL (MIA); Fort Myers, FL (RSW); Tampa, FL (TPA); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 4
  • Rebooked travel must be completed by: October 15
  • One change available. Rules/restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements will be waived.

JetBlue

Check website for Caribbean waivers

Southeast Region

  • Travel dates: September 6-17
  • Airports affected: Daytona Beach, FL (DAB); Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL); Jacksonville, FL (JAX); Fort Myers, FL (RSW); Orlando, FL (MCO); Sarasota, FL (SRQ); Tampa, FL (TPA); West Palm Beach, FL (PBI); Charleston, SC (CHS); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 5
  • Rebook travel anytime through September 27
  • To rebook travel or request a refund online, click here. If you are already checked in for your flight, call JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) for assistance with rebooking or a credit.

Southwest

  • Travel dates: through September 17
  • Airports affected: Atlanta (ATL); Birmingham (BHM); Charleston (CHS); Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Fort Myers (RSW); Havana (HAV); Jacksonville (JAX); Nassau (NAS); Orlando (MCO); Panama City Beach (ECP); Pensacola (PNS); Punta Cana (PUJ); San Juan (SJU); Tampa (TPA); West Palm Beach (PBI)
  • Customers who are holding reservations for flights departing during these dates, and want to alter their travel plans may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with Southwest’s accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.
  • Airport changes are being allowed and you’re allowed to make changes easily on the Southwest website:

SW change notice on reservation

Spirit Airlines

Spirit waiver

United

Check website for Leeward Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic waivers.

Florida

  • Travel dates: September 5-30
  • Airports affected: Ft. Lauderdale, FL (FLL); Ft. Myers, FL (RSW); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (VPS); Jacksonville, FL (JAX); Miami, FL (MIA); Orlando, FL (MCO); Panama City, FL (ECP); Pensacola, FL (PNS); Tampa, FL (TPA); West Palm Beach, FL (PBI)
  • ​​​​​​​​The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before November 15, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

Southeast United States

  • Travel dates: September 5-17
  • Airports affected: Asheville, NC (AVL); Atlanta, GA (ATL); Birmingham, AL (BHM); Charleston, SC (CHS); Chattanooga, TN (CHA); Columbia, SC (CAE); Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Huntsville, AL (HSV); Knoxville, TN (TYS); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • ​​​​​​The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before September 30, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

If you traveling to or from any of the following airports through September 12, United is waiving the fee for your first and second checked bag: Aguadilla, PR, US (BQN); Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, FL (VPS); Ft. Lauderdale, FL (FLL); Ft. Myers, FL (RSW); Havana, CU (HAV); Jacksonville, FL (JAX); Miami, FL (MIA); Nassau, BS (NAS); Orlando, FL (MCO); Panama City, FL (ECP); Pensacola, FL (PNS); Providenciales, TC (PLS); Puerto Plata, DO (POP); Punta Cana, DO (PUJ); San Juan, PR, US (SJU); Santiago, DO (STI); Santo Domingo, DO (SDQ); Tampa, FL (TPA); West Palm Beach, FL (PBI)

International Airlines

Featured image credit: AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES via Getty Images.

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