Hurricane Dorian Likely to Cause Travel Delays, Cancellations in Florida

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Meetings participants and others traveling to and through Florida during Labor Day Weekend, usually one of the busiest travel times of the year, should expect delays and cancellations due to the impact of Hurricane Dorian, which could begin blowing into the Florida coast as early as Saturday night and subsequently make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.

Dorian had seemed to be heading toward Florida’s eastern coast, but updates on Wednesday indicated the storm track was trending further south, toward Miami-Dade. Its future path is very uncertain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“It is essential to not underestimate the possible impacts of this storm and residents should prepare their homes now,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber in a statement. “The City is planning for the worst and hoping for the best—and we implore our residents do the same.”

Groups and individuals traveling to the Florida coast area are encouraged to take precautions, such as  allowing extra time to make connections and monitoring available ground transportation. Planners who have arranged meetings also can minimize the impacts of the hurricane by taking several steps to deal with issues including power failures and staff shortages at properties.

Airlines Issuing Fee Waivers

On Thursday morning, Airlines were offering fee waivers for changes and cancellations for trips to Caribbean destinations, but few included Florida waivers. Most airlines are expected to update their waiver policies to include Florida airports, though. Those who want to cancel trips should reach out to their airlines, cruises, hotels and tour operators.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines have shifted cruise itineraries to avoid the storm. Itineraries for MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line remain unchanged.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon for 26 counties in the storm’s potential path. He said that people in areas that could be affected should keep monitoring the storm.

“I will continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian closely with emergency management officials,” he said in a statement. “The state stands ready to support all counties along the coast as they prepare.”

Dorian’s Projected Path

An update from the National Hurricane Center on Thursday morning showed that the Category 1 hurricane could upgrade to a Category 2 during on Thursday. Nearly all the intensity models indicate Dorian will become a stronger hurricane in the next couple of days, when it passes near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday.

Current projections suggest that Dorian will turn into a Category 4 hurricane by Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, and become a weak Category 4 when it comes ashore in Florida on Monday morning. It would be the first Category 4 or higher hurricane to land on Florida’s east coast since Andrew, a Category 5 storm, ripped through the Miami area in 1992. Andrew was blamed for 61 deaths and caused about $27 billion in damage. Dorian could drop to a Category 1 as it crosses Central Florida.

The Bahamas, Florida and other parts of the Southeast may see heavy rainfall over the weekend and into early next week. This could result in life-threatening flash floods, surf and rip current conditions.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands escaped what some forecasters expected to be major devastation when Dorian cleared them on Wednesday. The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority was still working to restore electricity to some areas of St. Thomas and St. John on Thursday, but USVI Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. lifted a curfew, saying roads have been cleared of all debris.