Published August 26, 2011
New York – Before the first raindrop from Hurricane Irene splashes down on the East Coast, the Category-2 storm has already snarled ground and air transportation in major cities.
Airlines are left with the daunting task of accommodating travelers trying to get back home after the last vacations of the summer.
JetBlue, a major carrier out of New York, canceled 891 flights for Sunday through Monday, largely affecting customers at John F. Kennedy and Boston’s Logan International airports. The airline said customers will be automatically rebooked on later flights.
New York's Port Authority will close J.F.K. to all arriving international flights beginning at noon Saturday.
Following that lead, LaGuardia, Stewart International, Newark Liberty International and Tereboro will be closed to arriving passenger flights beginning at noon Saturday.
Other airlines have either canceled flights or say they’re monitoring the hurricane while reducing flight schedules.
American Airlines said it suspended 150 flights at the three airports around the Washington, D.C., area. The airline suspended 32 flights Friday, mainly from the Bahamas to the Carolinas and Virginia. American is monitoring the storm and holding off until Friday night or Saturday morning to issue more cancellations.
“One person said hurricanes are like snowstorms,” Ed Martelle, a spokesman from American told FoxNews.com. “And it’s true. They’re awful, but we know how to track them and what to expect.”
U.S. Airways, for its part, significantly reduced its flight schedule beginning Saturday night, a spokesman said. The spokesman said the airline recommends customers check its website and customer service to gain more information.
Delta said in a statement that it will cancel approximately 1,300 (of 16,500 scheduled flights) flights, including connecting flights, systemwide from Saturday to Monday.
"In order to minimize inconvenience, Delta will reduce its flight schedule and give customers more flexibility to alter their travel plans," Delta said in a statement.
The Federal Aviation Administration is checking its towers at all the airports in the storm’s path. A spokeswoman said that when there is hurricane force winds, planes do not fly.
“Our towers are designed to handle hurricane-force winds,” Tammy Jones, a spokeswoman from the FAA said. “And, as always, we’ll be staffed to handle any situation.”
The National Weather Service reported heightened waves and swells hitting North Carolina's coast early Friday and the storm is likely to hit New York by Sunday morning. The storm has also affected trains in the region.
Amtrak canceled most train service operating south of Washington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Amtrak said additional announcements will be made in the coming days as the major storm moves north.
Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said it will shut down all train service at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, affecting some 200,000 rides. Engineers will inspect the system and determine when it should reopen. Meanwhile, New Jersey Transit trains also will stop running at noon Saturday. Gov. Chris Christie made the announcement during a briefing on the storm Friday.
New York’s MTA is beginning a systemwide shutdown starting at noon on Saturday. A spokeswoman told FoxNews.com that the system needs to make sure the trains and buses are in safe storage so they could be ready for the Monday commute. She said riders should check for cancellations.
Although news reports of Irene indicate that it has the potential to be the most severe storm to hit the East Coast in decades, some people find subway closures to be the main news story.
“I’ve never been in NYC when they’ve shut down all the subways, buses, trains, airports. I’m more afraid of THAT than the hurricane,” Allison Jones said on Twitter.