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Hurricane Florence’s first rain bands and tropical storm force winds have started moving ashore in North Carolina. Residents and travelers are running out of time and options to escape the Carolinas ahead of landfall. Flight cancellations continue to rack up as eight commercial airports have suspended flights as of Thursday morning.

As of 11:00am ET Thursday, Hurricane Florence’s top sustained wind speed dropped again to 105mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane. However, no one should take this hurricane less seriously. It’s maintaining its intensity — actually, the barometric pressure dropped this morning, indicating strengthening — dispersing its energy over a larger area. The storm’s hurricane force wind field now extends 80 miles from the center of circulation, with tropical storm force winds extending 195 miles from the center.

The slow movement of the storm means that the forecast track is — and will remain — volatile. Due to the large wind field, torrential rain and disastrous storm surge, the exact path of the center of circulation isn’t as important as it is for other hurricanes. Currently, the forecast track calls for the center of circulation to slowly move onshore on the North Carolina coast on Friday morning before meandering westward into South Carolina Saturday morning:

Ahead of the storm, governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia have declared a state of emergency — freeing up emergency resources to help prepare for the storm and deal with the aftermath.

Airport Closures

Numerous airports closed — or had their last commercial flight — on Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Florence’s arrival, including:

Flight Cancellations

According to FlightAware’s flight cancellation tracker, more than 1,300 flights have already been canceled due to the storm. In addition to dozens of flights being canceled from coastal Carolina airports on Wednesday, at least 591 flights have been cancelled Thursday, 518 flights have been cancelled for Friday and 104 flights have already been canceled Saturday. And these numbers likely don’t yet reflect all of the cancellations to/from airports that are closing due to the hurricane.

The airports with the largest number of cancellations so far include:

  • Charlotte (CLT): 402 cancellations Thursday-Saturday
  • Raleigh/Durham (RDU): 341 cancellations Thursday-Saturday
  • Charleston, SC (CHS): 276 cancellations Thursday-Saturday
  • Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR): 124 cancellations Thursday-Saturday
  • Wilmington, NC (ILM): 101 cancellations Thursday-Saturday
  • Atlanta, GA (ATL): 100 cancellations Thursday-Saturday

Storm Surge of up to 13 feet

Disastrous storm surge is expected from Hurricane Florence. The National Hurricane Center is predicting between 9 and 13 feet of sea water that is likely to cover the coast in parts of North Carolina. The latest detailed information from the NHC:

  • Cape Fear NC to Cape Lookout NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo, and Bay Rivers…9-13 ft
  • North Myrtle Beach SC to Cape Fear NC…6-9 ft
  • Cape Lookout NC to Ocracoke Inlet NC…6-9 ft
  • South Santee River SC to North Myrtle Beach SC…4-6 ft
  • Ocracoke Inlet NC to Salvo NC…4-6 ft

As it’s hard to fathom just how catastrophic a 13 foot storm surge would be, the Weather Channel attempts to demonstrate this level of flooding in this video:

Rain Remains a Significant Threat

In addition to the storm surge, life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding remain a major concern from Hurricane Florence. Due to its slow path through the Carolina coast, forecasters are predicting that up to 40 inches of rain could fall in parts of North Carolina. Currently, the official forecast predicts:

  • Coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina…20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches.
  • Remainder of South Carolina and North Carolina into southwest Virginia…6 to 12 inches, isolated 24 inches.

3 Million Forecast to Lose Power

Based on the latest models, researchers from the University of Michigan are predicting that the hurricane will leave approximately three million residents without power — up from a forecast of 2.7 million on Wednesday:

Image courtesy of Guikema Research Group from the University of Michigan.
Image courtesy of Guikema Research Group from the University of Michigan.

Airline Fare Caps and Fee Waivers

Although airports are closing ahead of the storm, Delta and JetBlue still have airfare price caps in place. In addition, American, Delta and United are waiving baggage and pet-in-cabin fees for numerous airports in the area.

If you still have a flight scheduled into, out of or through the Southeast, 10 airlines have issued weather waivers for the area — many of which have been expanded since they were originally posted. As of 11:00am ET on Thursday, the following waivers have been issued for Hurricane Florence.

In This Post

Alaska Airlines

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Charleston (CHS); Raleigh/Durham (RDU)
  • Tickets must have been purchased by September 10
  • Rebooked travel must occur between September 10-October 1
  • If you purchased your tickets directly from Alaska Airlines, you have a few options. Click one of the links below: Change my flight or Cancel my flight and deposit the ticket value into My account.

Allegiant

  • Travel dates: September 12-16
  • Covered airports: Asheville, NC (AVL); Charleston, SC (CHS); Concord, NC (USA); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Greenville, SC (GSP); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Richmond, VA (RIC); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • Passengers with reservations to / from any of the above cities, will be able to request a one-time change to their travel plans without incurring change / cancel fees. To do so, customers must call Allegiant Customer Care at 702-505-8888 at any time 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
  • Itineraries must be changed within 14 days from this weather advisory for travel on any future open date to any city in the Allegiant network, excluding San Juan.

American

  • Travel dates: September 10-17 [extended from prior version]
  • Covered airports: Asheville, North Carolina (AVL); Augusta, Georgia (AGS); Charleston, South Carolina (CHS); Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT); Charlottesville, Virginia (CHO); Columbia, South Carolina (CAE); Fayetteville, North Carolina (FAY); Florence, South Carolina (FLO); Greensboro / High Point, North Carolina (GSO); Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP); Greenville, North Carolina (PGV); Hampton / Newport News, Virginia (PHF); Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH); Jacksonville, North Carolina (OAJ); Lynchburg, Virginia (LYH); Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR); New Bern, North Carolina (EWN); Norfolk, Virginia (ORF); Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina (RDU); Richmond, Virginia (RIC); Roanoke, Virginia (ROA); Savannah, Georgia (SAV); Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM)
  • Must have purchased ticket by: September 10
  • Rebooked travel must occur between September 10-21 [extended from prior version]
  • You may change your origin and destination to any another city affected by this alert. You may also change your flights to depart from or arrive at: Baltimore, Maryland (BWI); Washington Reagan, Washington D.C. (DCA); Washington Dulles, Washington D.C. (IAD)
  • Rebook in the same cabin or pay the difference.
  • Avoid the phone queue. Changes available on both AA’s website and in the AA app.

Delta

  • Travel dates: September 11-17 [extended from prior version]
  • Covered airports: Asheville, NC (AVL); Augusta, GA (AGS); Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Charlottesville, VA (CHO); Columbia, SC (CAE); Fayetteville, NC (FAY); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Greenville/Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Jacksonville, NC (OAJ); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); New Bern, NC (EWN); Newport News, VA (PHF); Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU); Richmond, VA (RIC); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Savannah, GA (SAV); Wilmington, NC (ILM) [expanded from prior version]
  • Tickets must have been purchased by: September 11 [extended from prior version]
  • Tickets must be reissued by: September 21 [extended from prior version]
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 21 [extended from prior version]
  • Changes to origins and destinations may result in an increase in fare. Any difference in fare between your original ticket and the new ticket will be collected at the time of booking.
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 21, 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 is not able to 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. Applicable change fee and fare difference will apply for new travel dates.

Frontier

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • Must have purchased your ticket by September 10
  • You may make one itinerary change. Rules/restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements will be waived.
  • Travel must be completed no later than Monday, October 1, 2018.
  • Origin and destination cities may be changed.
  • Frontier has already cancelled dozens of flights. See the full list here.

JetBlue

  • Travel dates: September 11-17 [extended from prior version]
  • Covered airports: Baltimore, MD (BWI); Charleston, SC (CHS); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU); Richmond, VA (RIC); Savannah, GA (SAV); Washington, DC (DCA); Washington, DC (IAD)
  • Customers may rebook their flights for travel through Thursday, September 21 [extended from prior version]
  • Original travel must have been booked on or before Monday, September 10
  • Customers with cancelled flights may also opt for a refund to the original form of payment
  • Make the change online in the ‘Manage Flights’ section of jetblue.com or by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight

Southwest

  • Travel dates: September 10-17
  • Covered airports: Baltimore/Washington (BWI); Charleston (CHS); Charlotte (CLT); Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP); Norfolk/Virginia Beach (ORF); Raleigh/Durham (RDU); Richmond (RIC); Washington Dulles International (IAD); Washington DC (Reagan National DCA)
  • Customers who are holding reservations to/from/through the cities listed above on the corresponding dates, 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.
  • Due to the potential impact from Hurricane Florence, and to provide our Customers additional flexibility, ticketed Passengers traveling to/from Charleston (CHS); Charlotte (CLT); Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP); Raleigh/Durham (RDU) may change their origin or destination to Atlanta (ATL) or Jacksonville (JAX) without paying any additional charge, if their original dates of travel are between Monday, September 10 through Monday, September 17.
  • Customers who purchased their itinerary via Southwest.com or Southwest’s mobile app are eligible to reschedule their travel plans online or from their mobile device. Customers who did not purchase a ticket via Southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative. Customers in the U.S. scheduled to travel internationally must call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative for assistance with rebooking.

Spirit

  • Travel dates: September 12-16
  • Covered airports: Asheville, NC (AVL); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Richmond, VA (RIC)
  • Modification Charge/Fare Difference waived through: September 26 [extended from prior version]
  • After this date, the modification charge is waived, but a fare difference may apply.
  • Guests can make changes to their reservations affected by this event by going to Spirit’s Manage Travel page, or by calling the Spirit Reservations Center at 801-401-2222 to make their flight changes. To make changes to Spirit Vacation packages contact Spirit Vacations at 954-379-8866.

United

  • Travel dates: September 10-16
  • Covered airports: Greenville/Spartanburg, SC (GSP); Columbia, SC (CAE); Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR); Charleston, SC (CHS); Wilmington, NC (ILM); Fayetteville, NC (FAY); Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU); Charlotte, NC (CLT); Greensboro, NC (GSO); Asheville, NC (AVL); Roanoke, VA (ROA); Norfolk, VA (ORF); Richmond, VA (RIC); Charlottesville, VA (CHO); Shenandoah Valley Airport, VA (SHD); Savannah, GA (SAV)
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing between September 10-16, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.
  • For wholly rescheduled travel departing after September 20 or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. Rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date when the ticket was issued.

WestJet

  • Travel dates: September 14
  • Covered airports: Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR)
  • To find out more about the change and cancel options due to these advisories, please call: WestJet flights: 1-888-937-8538 or WestJet Vacations: 1-877-737-7001

Protect Your Travels

Make sure to book flights with a card that offers solid trip delay and cancellation insurance. When I got stuck in Japan for four extra days due to a typhoon, I was very grateful for the Citi Prestige’s trip delay protection, which reimbursed $1,000 of our expenses.

Although the Citi Prestige used to be my go-to for booking flights, a recent devaluation to the card’s travel benefits knocked it out of its top spot. Currently, I’m using my Chase Sapphire Reserve to book my flights going forward. Other top choices are the Chase Sapphire Preferred CardCiti / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Citi ThankYou Premier Card.

Featured image courtesy of NOAA via Getty Images

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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