Turbulence hits air travel: Hurricane Irma’s local impact

WASHINGTON — With Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, travelers who have plans to fly to that region are facing obstacles and being forced to make sudden schedule changes.

At Reagan National Airport Thursday morning, a group heading to Jacksonville, Florida, for a golf trip finalized plans to cut its vacation short.

“We’ve all moved our flights up by at least one day and in some cases two,” said Bob Banner of Bethesda, Maryland. “They’re already canceling flights in parts of Florida, so coming back could be troublesome.”

Brad Rozansky, another member of the group from Bethesda, said they hoped to be back in the D.C. area by Saturday at the earliest.

“We all have rental cars reserved in case,” he said.

The board at Reagan National Airport Thursday shows cancellations for Miami flights. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
The board at Reagan National Airport Thursday shows cancellations for Miami flights. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

In this geocolor image captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones. It's on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly hitting Florida. (NOAA via AP)
In this geocolor image captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones. It’s on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly hitting Florida. (NOAA via AP)

Kailey Coventry walks past empty shelves of water at Target in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2017. "Hurricanes are always super last minute but I just want to make sure I'm prepared," said Coventry. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida.   (Andrea Cornejo/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
Kailey Coventry walks past empty shelves of water at Target in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2017. “Hurricanes are always super last minute but I just want to make sure I’m prepared,” said Coventry. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida. (Andrea Cornejo/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

Employees of a building supply store load sheets of plywood for a customer in the back of a truck during preparation for Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Throughout Florida, officials and residents are making preparations, but forecasts indicate the Keys could take the country's first blow from the Category 5 storm.  (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Employees of a building supply store load sheets of plywood for a customer in the back of a truck during preparation for Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Throughout Florida, officials and residents are making preparations, but forecasts indicate the Keys could take the country’s first blow from the Category 5 storm. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Hurricane Irma
Motorists head north of Key Largo, Fla., on US 1, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Keys officials announced a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Drivers wait in line for gasoline   in Altamonte Springs, Fla., ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida.  (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Drivers wait in line for gasoline in Altamonte Springs, Fla., ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Hurricane Irma
Motorists head north on US 1, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla., in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Keys officials announced a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

James Byrd, left, and Richard Clark, right, load their sandbags in a truck Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at Newtown Estates Recreation Center in Sarasota, Fla., as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. The each got their ten bags before Sarasota County ran out of sandbags for residents. The county still has plenty of dirt but residents must bring and fill their own bags. A new shipment of sandbags is expected Thursday. (Mike Lang/Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)
James Byrd, left, and Richard Clark, right, load their sandbags in a truck Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at Newtown Estates Recreation Center in Sarasota, Fla., as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. The each got their 10 bags before Sarasota County ran out of sandbags for residents. The county still has plenty of dirt but residents must bring and fill their own bags. A new shipment of sandbags is expected Thursday. (Mike Lang/Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi addresses price gouging complaints during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Supreme Court is delaying court proceedings in the case of a man scheduled to be executed in October. Lawyers for Michael Ray Lambrix on Wednesday asked for additional time to file motions and court briefings because the attorneys live in the expected path of Hurricane Irma. Attorney General Bondi's office objected, saying Irma's impact was "days away." (AP Photo/Joe Reedy)
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi addresses price gouging complaints during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Supreme Court is delaying court proceedings in the case of a man scheduled to be executed in October. Lawyers for Michael Ray Lambrix on Wednesday asked for additional time to file motions and court briefings because the attorneys live in the expected path of Hurricane Irma. Attorney General Bondi’s office objected, saying Irma’s impact was “days away.” (AP Photo/Joe Reedy)

Rick Surette, left, who lives in Charlotte County, hugs his mother-in-law Jacqulyn Umhoefer, 92, from Cape Coral, Fla., after Rick drove four hours to drop her off at Tampa International Airport Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Umhoefer had a flight to New Jersey to stay with her daughter ahead of Hurricane Irma. Umhoefer has lived in Florida for 25 years. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Rick Surette, left, who lives in Charlotte County, hugs his mother-in-law Jacqulyn Umhoefer, 92, from Cape Coral, Fla., after Rick drove four hours to drop her off at Tampa International Airport Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Umhoefer had a flight to New Jersey to stay with her daughter ahead of Hurricane Irma. Umhoefer has lived in Florida for 25 years. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

A man drives through rain and strong winds during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
A man drives through rain and strong winds during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

High winds and rain sweep through the streets of the Matelnillo community during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
High winds and rain sweep through the streets of the Matelnillo community during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

The heavy rains and wind of hurricane Irma cross through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
The heavy rains and wind of hurricane Irma cross through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Joshua Alicea, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency removes a fallen tree while touring the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Joshua Alicea, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency removes a fallen tree while touring the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Julio Feliciano (left, and Adrian Colon, right, both rescue staff members from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Julio Feliciano (left, and Adrian Colon, right, both rescue staff members from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Joshua Alicea, right, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Joshua Alicea, right, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

(1/18)
The board at Reagan National Airport Thursday shows cancellations for Miami flights. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
In this geocolor image captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones. It's on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly hitting Florida. (NOAA via AP)
Kailey Coventry walks past empty shelves of water at Target in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2017. "Hurricanes are always super last minute but I just want to make sure I'm prepared," said Coventry. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida.   (Andrea Cornejo/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
Employees of a building supply store load sheets of plywood for a customer in the back of a truck during preparation for Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Throughout Florida, officials and residents are making preparations, but forecasts indicate the Keys could take the country's first blow from the Category 5 storm.  (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Hurricane Irma
Drivers wait in line for gasoline   in Altamonte Springs, Fla., ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida.  (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Hurricane Irma
James Byrd, left, and Richard Clark, right, load their sandbags in a truck Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at Newtown Estates Recreation Center in Sarasota, Fla., as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. The each got their ten bags before Sarasota County ran out of sandbags for residents. The county still has plenty of dirt but residents must bring and fill their own bags. A new shipment of sandbags is expected Thursday. (Mike Lang/Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi addresses price gouging complaints during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Supreme Court is delaying court proceedings in the case of a man scheduled to be executed in October. Lawyers for Michael Ray Lambrix on Wednesday asked for additional time to file motions and court briefings because the attorneys live in the expected path of Hurricane Irma. Attorney General Bondi's office objected, saying Irma's impact was "days away." (AP Photo/Joe Reedy)
Rick Surette, left, who lives in Charlotte County, hugs his mother-in-law Jacqulyn Umhoefer, 92, from Cape Coral, Fla., after Rick drove four hours to drop her off at Tampa International Airport Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Umhoefer had a flight to New Jersey to stay with her daughter ahead of Hurricane Irma. Umhoefer has lived in Florida for 25 years. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
A man drives through rain and strong winds during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
High winds and rain sweep through the streets of the Matelnillo community during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
The heavy rains and wind of hurricane Irma cross through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Joshua Alicea, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency removes a fallen tree while touring the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Julio Feliciano (left, and Adrian Colon, right, both rescue staff members from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Joshua Alicea, right, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Airlines have been monitoring Irma and making adjustments, offering travelers waivers so they can change flights without having to pay a fee.

Hundreds of flights have already been canceled, and those disruptions could end up being more widespread if Irma has a direct impact on major hubs such as Miami, Orlando, Tampa or even the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta.

Miami International Airport said it would shut down if winds reach 55 mph.

“This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Irma weakened only slightly Thursday morning and remained a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 180 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center which predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two.

Forecasters said the storm would likely skirt Cuba on Friday night into Saturday before heading north toward Florida.

The storm was increasingly likely to rip into South Florida early Sunday, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up