HURRICANE IRMA: THE TRAVEL IMPLICATIONS FOR TOURISTS AS STORM HEADS TOWARDS CARIBBEAN
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On Wednesday morning, local time, the hurricane is expected to devastate the northeastern Leeward Islands, including Antigua and Anguilla.
The hurricane is moving a little north of due west, with the eye travelling across the sea at a speed of 15mph.
Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest storm ever recorded in Atlantic
In line for the hurricane are Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Barthelemy, both British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the north coast of the Dominican Republic
The winds created are much higher than the speed at which the weather system moves. Hurricane-force winds gusting in excess of 200mph extend outward, with very strong gusts 60 miles from the centre.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas, water levels are predicted to rise by 20 feet.
Almost tsunami-like conditions are expected in the Virgin Islands, with land under up to 11 feet of water.
In addition, says the NHC, “heavy rains associated with Irma “could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides”.
The NHC says: “The chance of direct impacts from Irma beginning later this week and this weekend from wind, storm surge, and rainfall continues to increase in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula. However, it is too soon to specify the timing and magnitude of these impacts.”
There are fears it could be the worst weather event since Hurricane Andrew a quarter-century ago, which destroyed tens of thousands of houses in south Florida. The Governor, Rick Scott, is taking no chances. He has declared a state of emergency across Florida, which President Trump has elevated to a federal emergency.
More than 1,000 tactical high wheeled trucks are on standby, as are 13 helicopters. Grocery store shelves are being filled with water and other emergency resources.
On Tuesday Governor Scott temporarily abolished all road tolls across the entire state, saying: “Suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.”
British Airways is way ahead of its rivals in terms of flexibility. It cancelled yesterday’s and today’s flights from Gatwick to Antigua, which normally continue to the islands of Tobago and St Kitts respectively.
BA is offering a “waiver” to anyone booked to fly to Antigua, St Kitts, Punta Cana, Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, and Nassau before 10 September. “They can choose to travel to an alternative Caribbean destination or delay the flight to another date before 30 September,” says the airline.
The same offer applies for passengers booked to the four Florida airports BA serves — Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa — between 8 and 11 September. They can choose to fly to earlier than originally booked earlier (up to 7 September) or from 12 to 30 September.
Virgin Atlantic also adjusted its Antigua schedule, but has not made further public announcements.
Anyone booked to travel on a US carrier can take advantage of a wide range of travel waivers. Southwest Airlines, for example, is offering passengers booked to fly to airports in Florida, the Bahamas, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and San Juan in Puerto Rico up to 11 September can rebook within the next two weeks.
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