Hurricane Dorian, the first major hurricane of 2019, made its way through the Bahamas this weekend, causing widespread destruction as it hovered over the island, and is now on path to approach the east coast of Florida late Tuesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The Bahamas took and continues to take the worst of Dorian, which hit the island as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. The storm stalled in its path over Grand Bahama for 12 hours on Monday, not budging over the island and bringing winds of up to 155 mph and storm surges of 12 to 18 feet above normal, according to the NOAA.
The storm’s center hovered about 30 miles northeast of Freeport and 100 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida. for most of the day on Monday. According to the NHC, it continued to impact Grand Bahama into Tuesday morning.
According to reports, at least five people have died in the northern Bahamas on the Abaco Islands as of Tuesday morning and more than 13,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged. In Freeport, reports had the water level over six feet in some neighborhoods.
The storm, downgraded to a Category 3, now moves towards the east coast of Florida. Winds of up to 75 mph could hit the Florida coast, according to the NHC, and, while the storm is not expected to make landfall along the state’s east coast, “a relatively small deviation to the left of this track could bring the core of the hurricane near or over the coastline,” the NHC said in a statement.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has already told coastal residents to follow any and all evacuation orders in Palm, Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, St. Johns, Brevard, and Volusia counties. And, even with the storm losing power over the Bahamas, it is still expected to be one of the strongest storms to “ever threaten the state of Florida on the East Coast.”
“No matter what path this storm takes, our state will be impacted. We will continue to work around the clock to prepare.” Jared Moskowawitz, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said in a statement on Monday.
Flight cancellations and waivers
According to Flight Aware, as of Monday morning, more than 1,800 flights within the U.S. have already been canceled, with a majority of those coming from Florida airports impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
Orlando (MCO), which accounted for more than 340 of those flight cancellations, halted all of its operations at 2 a.m. on Sept. 3 because of Dorians’ expected path. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, which accounted for nearly 120 of those cancellations on Monday, closed at noon on Sunday with plans to reopen sometime later in the day on Sept. 3.
Miami International, which did not close but did cancel almost 60 flights on Monday, is recommending passengers get to the airport earlier than normal as its “anticipating a high volume of passengers.”
Alaska Airlines is allowing those with travel scheduled through Sept. 4 in or out of Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and Charleston to change their flight without fee, for new travel through Sept. 11.
American Airlines is waiving change fees for travel scheduled through Sept. 6 for those scheduled on flights in or out of all impacted Florida airports. Flights can be rescheduled for travel through Sept. 14 with the same origin and destination cities.
American is doing the same for most flights in or out of impacted airports in Georgia and the Carolinas, including Charleston, where close to 40 flights were canceled on Tuesday. Change fees can be waived for tickets scheduled through Sept. 7, with new service bookable through Sept. 15.
Delta Air Lines is giving passengers with travel scheduled through all of its Florida airports — including Tampa — and Brunswick and Valdosta, Georgia, through Sept. 6 the option to rebook for other service scheduled for no later than Sept. 13. The airline is also waiving all baggage and pet in cabin fees for travel to and from most Florida cities because of the storm.
JetBlue is offering its own change/cancel fee and fare difference waivers for most of its Florida airports for tickets on flights scheduled through Sept. 3. Those tickets can be rebooked for travel through Sept. 10.
JetBlue is giving those in four Florida airports in particular — Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Palm Beach — the same waiver, but for travel through Sept. 4 with the option to rebook for travel through Sept. 15.
For JetBlue travel out of Charleston and Savannah, anyone traveling on a JetBlue flight in or out of those airports through Sept. 5 can rebook for travel through Sept. 15 using a similar change fee/fare difference waiver.
United Airlines is waiving its change fees and fare differences for its Florida flights through Sept. 6 and for its Georgia and Carolinas flights through Sept. 7. United’s Florida flights can be rebooked through Sept. 13, while its Georgia and Carolinas flights can be rebooked through Sept. 14.