Hurricane Matthew Expected To Wreak U.S. Travel Havoc
Photo: The latest projections and probabilities as of Wednesday evening. (Photo via the National Hurricane Center.)
UPDATE 11 P.M. Wednesday—The National Weather Service updated projections and probabilities at 11 P.M. on Wednesday. Hurricane Matthew is currently a Category 3 hurricane, but is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 again as it reaches Florida.
Hurricane warnings have been extended northward for this update to Fernandina Beach, Florida near Jacksonville. Hurricane watches extend from there to Edisto Beach, South Carolina just south of Charleston. Tropical storm watches and warnings extend far inland into even the gulf areas of Florida. More news can be found at the National Hurricane Center website, where the next update is scheduled for 2 A.M. and a full update at 5 A.M.
Residents and tourists in Florida should check with local governments as to potential mandatory or voluntary evacuation procedures. Before the storm hits, prepare according to local directives. If traveling, make sure you know evacuation routes, potential shelter locations and plan ahead in case of power outage.
From flying to sailing to driving, travel is in peril this week and this upcoming weekend in the lower half of the eastern United States as Hurricane Matthew moves north.
Downgraded to a Category 3, Matthew still packs heavy winds and driving rain, with the latest storm tracks projecting it will hug the coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina – but many meteorologists believing it will then take a hard right turn and veer east into the Atlantic Ocean before reaching North Carolina, sparing the mid-Atlantic states and eastern seaboard.
The National Guard has already been activated in Florida as a precaution, and coastal evacuations are underway in South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley has asked 1.1 million coastal residents to move at least 100 miles inland. The state is providing 280 school buses to transport those who cannot drive.
Matthew could make landfall in south Florida as early as Thursday. That puts a plethora of high school, college and professional sporting events in jeopardy — especially for those fans driving long distances to see college football and the NFL over the weekend.
The Miami Dolphins of the NFL are scheduled to host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, and Titans coach Mike Mularkey said on his weekly radio show Tuesday night that preliminary discussions have been held about moving the game to Nashville instead of Miami.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase also acknowledged the possibility and said, “We have protocols that we have in place. It’s just now kind of a wait-and-see for us.”
In college football, the University of Georgia is scheduled to play at the University of South Carolina on Saturday, Florida State is at Miami, and LSU is at Florida. All schools said they are monitoring the situation.
“We are in communication with the National Weather Service, local authorities and the SEC regarding potential weather issues,” the University of South Carolina said in a statement. “The safety of everyone that could be impacted by this storm is paramount. Once forecasts call for action, we will use all means necessary to inform the public.”
READ MORE: What You Need To Know About Hurricane Season
Getting to these games – or anywhere else, for that matter – via the airlines will also be problematic. As of late Tuesday night, American Airlines had cancelled more than 100 flights through Saturday, most of them from its hub in Miami to Caribbean destinations.
Virtually all U.S. airlines with hubs or destinations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina or the Caribbean have waived its change fees. According to the Associated Press, they include:
* American — Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach in Florida.
* United — Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach.
* Delta — Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach.
* JetBlue — Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach; also Savannah-Hilton Head, Georgia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina.
* Spirit — Fort Lauderdale, Orlando.
Cruise lines continue to alter their itineraries to avoid the affected areas in the Caribbean, with most offering passengers a series of make-goods. That includes Carnival, which is taking criticism for the events surrounding its Carnival Pride.
Initially set to sail this past Sunday from Baltimore to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport, Carnival altered the route and sent the ship completely north with scheduled stops in New York City and Saint John, New Brunswick. Another weather front off Canada cancelled the New Brunswick portion of the trip, and the boat is now docked at Pier 88 in New York City until it returns to Baltimore on Sunday.
"I cannot afford to pay $3,500 to ride from Baltimore to New York," passenger Fred Loney, 74, told WNBC-TV New York. "That's basically what I've done. I want my money back and to be clear of this, and if you cannot provide the service, you need to provide the funds that we paid you back."
Carnival told WNBC that prior to the start of the trip, "guests had the option of canceling and receiving a full refund. Those who opted to sail on the cruise are receiving a $250-per-person shipboard credit and a 50-percent future cruise discount."
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