Tampa International Airport closes ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

Jul 6, 2021

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Tampa International Airport is suspending commercial flights at 5 p.m. today ahead of impending Tropical Storm Elsa, TPA announced this morning as Florida’s upper Gulf Coast faces a hurricane watch.

“After suspending operations at 5 p.m. today, we hope to resume flights as early in the morning as possible after we inspect our airfield and roadways for any damages or debris,” TPA spokesperson Emily Nipps said via email. “We plan on resuming at 10 a.m. Wednesday, though travelers may show up earlier than that to check-in or prepare for those morning flights.”

The storm comes as several airlines have been stretched thin as the demand for domestic air travel has recovered faster than some carriers’ ability to boost staffing after the worst of the pandemic. Airlines are already canceling flights ahead of the storm and a number of them, including the nation’s four largest, have eased rebooking rules for passengers ticketed to fly to some Florida airports.

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Nipps confirmed 93 inbound and outbound flights have been canceled thus far and estimates that approximately “one-third to one-half of total operations” will be affected between Tuesday and Wednesday. As of 12:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday, flight-tracking site FlightAware showed 130 canceled U.S. flights, including preemptive cancellations in Fort Myers and Sarasota, for Wednesday, when the storm is expected to move across Florida.

“The closure of TPA due to Tropical Storm Elsa will cause limited impact, primarily to travelers that are originating in or arriving to the area as a final destination. The larger impact will be due to the closure of traffic routes that transition north and south through the middle of the state,” Rick Garceau, former manager of the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center, said via email. “There is also a possible risk to the closure of Atlantic routes that route traffic down from the busy Northeast. Traffic that normally would transition over TPA southbound will be pressed further east to the Atlantic or eastern part of the state which in this case may not be available due to the storm.”

In response to flyers inquiring about flights out of TPA today, the airport encourages travelers to contact individual airlines directly for updates regarding schedule changes.

“We expect our airlines will be busy rebooking any canceled flights due to the storm, which is something they are accustomed to doing this time of year in Florida as we get daily thunderstorms that disrupt air traffic,” Nipps said. “Anyone planning on flying through TPA over the next couple of days should contact the airline directly for the most up-to-date schedule.”

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The Weather Channel reports that Elsa is currently moving north through the Gulf of Mexico, with “heavy rain, strong winds, storm surge and isolated tornadoes” expected in Florida through Wednesday, before heading up the southeast and mid-Atlantic coasts later this week. Impacts are expected to Cuba as well.

Read more: Flying solo: Airline unaccompanied minor policies and fees in the US

Elsa is expected to continue to strengthen, per the latest updates by the National Hurricane Center.

Featured photo courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

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