Hurricane Michael: What does it mean for travellers?

The hurricane will bring winds of 100mph to Florida

Simon Calder
Travel correspondent
Tuesday 09 October 2018 12:12
Florida Governor Rick Scott urges residents to prepare for tropical storm Michael

Hurricane Michael is in the Gulf of Mexico, currently moving north from the western tip of Cuba, and is poised to bring 100mph winds to the Florida Panhandle. A storm surge could see water levels inland rise by 12 feet.

The National Hurricane Center predicts storm-force winds extending into southeast Alabama and southern Georgia, with the expected path heading northeast along the Atlantic coast towards Washington DC and New York.

What preparations are taking place in Florida?

Some communities are being evacuated ahead of the hurricane. When winds reach 40mph, the Florida Highway Patrol closes bridges, which will make any subsequent movement difficult.

The state governor, Rick Scott, has tweeted:

What is happening to travel in the area?

Airports are closing and flights are being cancelled. Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which is on the path of the hurricane, says: “The Airport will CLOSE and cease all operations starting on Wednesday, 10 October at 12.01am due to the impacts of Hurricane Michael.

“The airport will remain closed until further updates are provided.”

Other airports in the region, including Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee and Mobile in Alabama are likely to do the same.

All the leading US airlines have put “waivers” in place, allowing passengers booked to or from the affected area to postpone their trips. Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United are including Atlanta – the world's busiest airport – in the list of southeastern US airports. But Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are not currently offering flexibility.

Among airlines with waivers, the postponement option is generally for passengers booked up to and including Thursday 11 October, with travel to be complete by the weekend.

What is happening to cruise ships in the area?

There are relatively few in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of year. Some itineraries are being adjusted to avoid the hurricane.

We are booked to go to Orlando. Will we be affected?

The National Hurricane Center says there is about a 30 per cent chance of storm-force winds. But central Florida's theme park capital should certainly escape the worst of the hurricane.

I have a booking to Florida for half-term, beginning 20 October. Am I able to change my plans or get a refund?

No. October is squarely in the hurricane season in this part of the world, and “disinclination to travel” is not grounds for a refund, postponement or change in destination.

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