Airlines Issue Waivers, Florida Airport Closes As Hurricane Idalia Approaches U.S.

Everything to know as the hurricane heads to Florida.

H​urricane Idalia is barreling toward the Florida Gulf Coast and is expected to make landfall as a major hurricane on Wednesday and disrupting travel up and down the coast.

On Tuesday, Idalia was moving north up the Gulf of Mexico and had strengthened to maximum sustained winds near 80 mph with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was expected to experience “rapid intensification… through landfall, and Idalia is forecast to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before landfall on Wednesday.”

In anticipation of the storm, airlines canceled flights and issued flight waivers, and one airport shut down.

Tampa International Airport suspended all commercial operations at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and said in a statement it would remain “closed until it can assess any damages later in the week.”

“The closure will allow the Airport and its partners to prepare the airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment and any remaining aircraft before Idalia’s expected landfall early Wednesday as a potential major hurricane,” Tampa’s airport wrote in the statement. “The Airport anticipates reopening Thursday morning, with damage assessments beginning after the storm passes. TPA will closely coordinate the reopening of the Airport with its partners based on roadway safety, facility readiness and staffing. Any changes to the timing will be promptly communicated.”

Nearby Southwest Florida International Airport, which is located in Fort Myers and temporarily closed last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, said in a statement that flights were operating out of the airport, but added “there may be delays or changes to your flights today due to changing weather conditions. Check with your airline for the most up-to-date information.”

As of Tuesday morning, more than 450 flights had been canceled within, into, or out of the United States, the majority of which originated from or were headed to Tampa, according to flight tracker FlightAware. Southwest Airlines canceled the most flights of any U.S. airline with more than 140 total cancellations.

Several airlines issued travel waivers ahead of the storm for travel through Wednesday or Thursday, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines.

Hurricane-force winds from the storm were expected to extend outward up to 15 miles from its center, according to the National Hurricane Center. A hurricane warning was issued for Longboat Key, which sits on a barrier island just west of Sarasota, all the way north to Indian Pass, FL, including the Tampa Bay area.

In addition to travel disruptions, several theme parks announced early closures, including Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and its sister park Adventure Island Tampa Bay.

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