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Air Travel Picks Up After Irene, Trains Still Stuck


First Posted: 08/26/11 09:41 AM ET Updated: 10/26/11 06:12 AM ET

UPDATE 8/30/11 8:30 a.m. EST: Air and rail travel continue to pick up after Irene, but delays and cancellations still thwart travelers.

About 650,000 to 700,000 air travelers have been grounded since Friday because of flight cancellations prompted by Hurricane Irene, Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware.com, a flight tracking service, told CNN.

Airlines hope to be back on a regular schedule this afternoon, but the backlog situation is expected to continue through the week. But, according to CNN, airlines including American and US Airways said they don't expect any impact on Labor Day travel.

Irene is expected to cost U.S. airlines $200 million in revenue thanks to lost flying time and ticket-change fee waivers, reports the AP.

The future is still uncertain for Amtrak passengers trying to travel between Philadelphia and New York, thanks to water on the tracks in Trenton. Most service has been restored south of Philadelphia and between New York and Boston.

Also still canceled as of Tuesday: Crescent (Trains 19 & 20), New York-Atlanta-New Orleans; Lake Shore Limited (Trains 48/448 & 49/449), Chicago-New York/Boston; Auto Train (Trains 52 & 53), Sanford, Fla.-Lorton, Va.; Palmetto (Trains 89 & 90), New York-Savannah; Silver Meteor (Trains 97 & 98), New York-Miami.

Visit Amtrak's website for the full list of service changes.

Along the coast, it's back to business for many beaches. Assateague Island reopened 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, reports the Associated Press.

In New Jersey, Irene left 15- to 18-foot dropoffs on some beaches, but environmental officials told the AP that the beaches could still be used Labor Day weekend.

"The key is getting the word out," Celina Moose, the manager of a kite store in in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, told the AP "The beaches are open. The restaurants are open. We need tourists to come back."

In North Carolina, most beaches opened yesterday. But, for Hatteras Island beaches including the towns of Buxton, Salvo, Waves and Rodanthe, the road is out. This means beaches are cut off for this Labor Day while Highway 12 is repaired, according to WCNC Charlotte.

In Vermont, part of a ski lodge at Killington resort has collapsed, stranding about 400 people in hotels and condominiums at the ski area because of road damage from Irene, reports the AP.

In the Caribbean, which bore the weight of Irene days ago, the major cruiseport of Nassau in the Bahamas is open. But, cruise lines are still assessing damage to their private islands, reports MSNBC. Most lines have cancelled planned calls, replacing them with additional sea days or different ports.

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UPDATE 8/29/11 8:15 a.m. EST: With Irene beyond us, but leaving much damage in her wake, the transportation sector is working to pick up the pieces and get back on schedule.

JFK and Newark airports opened to arriving flights at 6 a.m. Monday, with departures set to resume at noon. LaGuardia Airport re-opened at 7:00 a.m. Monday. Boston Logan expected operations to be back up by midday Monday.

With airports open, airlines have been taking to Twitter to make service announcements.

US Airways tweeted: "Flights will resume Monday morning for most Eastern cities. Check the status of your flight http://bit.ly/5TrkJX"

From Delta's handle, the company said: "RT @deltaassist Airports closed due to Hurricane Irene will open 8/29 and we will resume service. Ck delta.com for the latest flt status."

American Airlines tweeted: "CORRECTION: #IRENE UPDATE: We’ll begin operations tomorrow at PHL, EWR, LGA, JFK, BDL & BOS. Chk flt status here: bit.ly/AASTATUS"

United (and Continental) replied to one passenger: "@rkents We plan to resume flights Monday morning."

Both added on their websites that they "are working closely with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to assess the impact of the hurricane. Service at New York area airports (EWR, JFK, and LGA) is expected to resume no earlier than 12 noon EDT on Monday, August 29."

JetBlue will resume New York and Boston service 3 p.m. ET Monday reports CNN. Some additional flights have been scheduled to handle the backlog of passengers. Southwest will operate its normal schedule out of LaGuardia.

For those hoping to ride the rails, Amtrak's northeast corridor service is only partially operational. Amtrak had this to say on its website: "Amtrak will operate most Northeast Regional trains between Philadelphia and Washington starting on Monday, Aug. 29. All Amtrak service between Boston and Philadelphia is canceled due to the extensive flooding, debris on tracks, and power issues as a result of Hurricane Irene. In addition, all Acela Express service between Boston and Washington is canceled."

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UPDATE 8/28/11 11:15 a.m. EST: With Irene arriving in New York this morning on her way to New England, travel remains precarious in the north, while the south is picking up the pieces after the storm.

According to The New York Times, three bridges over Jamaica Bay were shut between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday and remained closed: the Cross Bay Bridge, the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Broad Channel bridge. The lower level of the George Washington Bridge remained closed, and one tube of the Holland Tunnel was closed due to flooding.

In Massachusetts, for the MassPike airport tunnels and the Tobin Bridge, all tolls will be waived between 12:01AM to 10PM Sunday, according to Massachusetts 511.

As for East Coast airports, according to the FAA flight delay map, only Philadelphia International, Newark, LaGuardia, JFK and Teterboro airports are closed.

In Washington, flights are resuming with minimal delays, reports the Associated Press. The Wall Street Journal reports that BWI Airport operations are expected to "slowly" resume on Sunday. And, Dulles International is open with "no major damage," despite airline cancellations.

United tweeted: "We’re resuming ops at RIC, RDU, ORF, ABE, PHL, DCA & BWI today. Please check flight status on united.com or continental.com."

However, the longer JFK, LaGuardia and Newark stay closed, the greater the ripple effect will be across the country.

Federal officials don't know how long these hubs will remain shuttered, reports the AP. But with most major airlines offering refunds or fee-free itinerary changes for flights through August 30, the question is raised: will these airports be open by Monday or Tuesday?

According to The WSJ, U.S. carriers say they plan to resume operations as early as 6 a.m. Monday and no later than noon.

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UPDATE 8/28/11 12:15 a.m. EST: As of 8:00 p.m. Saturday, all Amtrak service north of Jacksonville, Fla., and east of Toledo and Indianapolis is suspended through Sunday, Amtrak said on its website. This includes services between Boston and Portland, Maine, and within the State of North Carolina.

Though venturing out into the storm is ill-advised, public transportation in Washington D.C. is still running on a normal schedule according to WMATA.There are no planned service changes.

In Maryland, however, the Maryland Transit Administration announced on its website that all services will be temporarily suspended Saturday evening. Depending on the scope of the storm, service should return Sunday at 6:00 a.m., with Light Rail going back online at 11:00 a.m.

The state's Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is closed, and the Tydings Memorial (I-95), the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial (US 40), the Harry W. Nice Memorial (US 301) and the Francis Scott Key (I-695) bridges are all now under Phase II Wind Restrictions, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Those go into effect in the case of sustained winds of 40-49 miles per hour.

In Delaware, the Indian River Inlet Bridge is closed, and other bridges will be closed when sustained winds reach 45 MPH, according to the state's department of transportation. The Reedy Point Bridge at Route 9, the St. George's Bridge, and the Roth Memorial Bridge on SR 1 are closed to all but emergency vehicles, reports the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

New Jersey Transit Rail, Bus, Light Rail and Access Link are suspended through Sunday, according to NJ Transit's website.

511NJ is reporting the closure of southbound Garden State Parkway south of Interchange 98 and of the Atlantic City Expressway eastbound at Exit 5 (US 9).

Pennsylvania'a SEPTA transportation service has suspended all routes according to its website.

The following state road closure announcement was made on an alert scroll by 511PA: Due to severe weather, the speed limit has been reduced to 45 miles per hour and a commercial vehicle restriction is in effect for the following highways in eastern Pennsylvania: I-95, Rt 309 and Rt 1 in Bucks County; Rt 202 and Rt 30 bypass in Chester County; I-95, I-476, and Rt 1 in Delaware County; I-76, I-476, Rt 422 and Rt 309 in Montgomery County; I-95, I-676, I-76, Rt 1 Extension and Rt 63 Woodhaven Road in Philadelphia County; PA Turnpike Mainline from Morgantown(298) to Delaware River Br (359) and the Northeast Extension from Mid County (20) to Mahoning Valley (74).

511NY is reporting that in New York, in Rockland County, Route 59 from Route 303 to Sickletown Road near the Palisades Mall is closed. And, in Westchester County, the Sawmill River Parkway from NYC line to Bedford Road, Exit 13; the Hutchinson River Parkway from NYC line to Cross County Parkway; the Taconic State Parkway from Kensico Circle to Sprain Brook Parkway; and the Bronx River Parkway are closed.

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UPDATE 8/27/11/ 8:00 p.m. EST With air and rail already shut down, Irene is closing roads and forcing mandatory driving driving bans along the East Coast.

Driving bans:

In Union County, New Jersey, all non-emergency vehicles are banned from the roads from 8:00 p.m., reports Berkeley Heights Patch.

According to Delaware online, the same restriction applies to Sussex County (from 6 p.m), Kent (from 8 p.m.), and New Castle County (from 10 p.m.), in Delaware.

Road closures:

In Virginia, where the storm has already been felt, state police responded to 152 traffic accidents and 83 disabled vehicles Saturday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., reports The Washington Post.

The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Midtown Tunnel, and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel are already closed, reports local NBC affiliate WAVY.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Saw Mill River Parkway and Henry Hudson Parkway were closed, and interchanges 7A (Saw Mill River Parkway) and 8A (NY Route 119 -Saw Mill River Parkway) on I-87 closed at 6 p.m.

If sustained winds exceed 60 mph, reports NBC New York, the following bridges will close: George Washington, Tappan Zee, all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Bear Mountain Bridge, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle (Catskill).

According to newsday.com, under those conditions the Verrazano, RFK Triborough, Whitestone, Throgs Neck and Henry Hudson bridges will close.

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UPDATE 8/27/11/ 4:00 p.m. EST: Not only are U.S. air carriers buckling under Irene's pressure, international carriers are cancelling flights as well. British Airways, Air France and major Asian airlines canceled numerous flights to and from Europe and Asia, Agence France Presse reports.

In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy is considering banning all non-emergency traffic from state highways, reports Woodbury-Middlebury Patch.

“We will start to get high winds sometime after 9 p.m,” he said. “Try to be off the road by the time the sun goes down. We will be considering a full ban of all non-emergency vehicles ... sometime early in the morning Sunday.”

In New York, the city's subway and bus system, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, PATH trains and NJ Transit trains all shut down as of noon Saturday. According to the New York Post, a total transportation shut down requires workers to lock up each of the system's 468 stations, move trains out of flood zones, and cut power on all of the lines.

New York City's bridges will close once winds hit 60 miles per hour.

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UPDATE: 8/27/11 10:45 a.m. EST: The eye of Hurricane Irene passed over the North Carolina coast at about 7:30 a.m. eastern, and is still expected to remain a hurricane as it hits the Mid-Atlantic Saturday night and New England Sunday, reports Reuters.

Departing flights from New York area airports are still operating, pending further updates, reports CNN. But, airlines continued to cancel their own flights, with United and Continental halting some 2,300 Saturday and Sunday flights.

Southwest now has 400 cancellations on the East Coast, the news agency reports. US Airways will conduct "significant" cancellations in the D.C. area beginning at 6:00 p.m. Saturday and continuing into Sunday.

As of 10:45 a.m. Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration's flight delay tracker was only showing Newark, JFK and LaGuardia as major airports that are closed. Boston Logan, Philadelphia International, Dulles International, Washington National, Baltimore Washington International and Raleigh-Durham International were all open with delays only in Philadelphia.

As for the trains, Amtrak reported it would begin East Coast service reductions Saturday, with no trains operating in the Northeast on Sunday.

This includes service in the Northeast Corridor (Washington – Boston), the Keystone Corridor (New York – Harrisburg, Pa.), the Springfield Line (New Haven, Conn. – Springfield, Mass.), the Empire Service (New York – Albany), the Vermonter (St. Albans, Vt. – Washington), the Northeast Regional services in Virginia and several long-distance trains. Call 1-800-USA-RAIL for more information.

Per the evacuation order given by New York City's Mayor Bloomberg, New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission announced Friday evening that, beginning 9 a.m. Saturday, it would dispatch more cabs than normal into evacuating areas of the city. A special "zone fare" system and other new rules will apply in this instance, including requiring that pets be allowed in cabs and encouraging people to ride in groups, CNN reports.

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UPDATE: 8/27/11 12:50 a.m. EST: Irene will cause 5 New York City airports to suspend arriving flights beginning at noon Saturday according to an AP Report.

"The suspension affects John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in New York City, Stewart International in the city's northern suburbs and Newark Liberty International and Teterboro in New Jersey. It applies to domestic and international flights."

For more information on NYC airports check the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Alerts and Advisories page

If you're expecting to travel to cities along the East Coast, contact your airline carrier about flight times and cancelations as it is highly likely that you will have to rebook with all of the cancellations through Sunday.

UPDATE 8/26/11 5:00 p.m. EST: As Irene slowly makes her way to the northeast, New York Mayor Bloomberg has ordered an evacuation of low-lying areas of the city.

The scope of flight cancellations widens, with Delta announcing the cancellation of 1,300 flights, the Associated Press reports.

American airlines will suspend service out of Washington, D.C. for 24 hours beginning noon Saturday, affecting approximately 265 flights, reports Bloomberg. Southwest's Norfolk service will be grounded Saturday, cancelling about 18 flights.

According to International Business Times, JetBlue canceled 882 flights - or 75% of its weekend schedule - from Aug. 27-29. Most of these involve New York's JFK airport, but Boston is affected by cancellations as well.

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UPDATE 8/26/11 1: p.m. EST: As Irene continues her approach to the U.S., airlines are preemptively cancelling flights.

American Airlines has "tentatively canceled" all flights in the Washington area from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, reports CNN, and all Saturday flights into and out of Raleigh/Durham are cancelled on Saturday. AirTran has cancelled more than two dozen flights on Saturday and Sunday and Jet Blue has cancelled nearly 900 — mostly on Sunday and Monday in the Northeast.

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UPDATE 8/26/11, 8 a.m. EST: After thrashing the Bahamas, Hurricane Irene has lost a little steam, but she still has her sights set on the eastern US. Though she was downgraded to a category two storm, by the time Irene reaches North Carolina, she's is expected to be a category three storm.

As of Friday morning, Irene's center was still about 420 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and moving to the north at 14 mph, reports the Associated Press. Irene will be the strongest storm to hit the east coast in seven years.

This has already led airlines to take action, and Amtrak is following suit. According to the rail system's website, most trains traveling south of Washington, D.C. were canceled yesterday. For Friday, Saturday and Sunday this includes: Auto Train Trains 52 and 53 (Sanford, Fla. - Lorton, Va.), Palmetto Trains 89 and 90 (New York - Savannah), Silver Meteor Trains 97 and 98 (New York - Miami). Silver Star Trains 91 and 92 (New York -Tampa - Miami) are canceled from New York to Jacksonville, but will operate between Jacksonville and Miami. Carolinian Trains 79 and 80 (New York - Charlotte, N.C.) will be canceled on Saturday. And, on Friday, Northeast Regional Trains 67 and 83 (Boston – Newport News) will terminate in Washington.

The weather might also impact trains in the rest of the country. "The trains we have canceled thus far are north-south on the east coast," Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm told NBC Chicago. "East-west trains into New York could be impacted if the weather gets severe enough."

In Washington, Sunday's dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has been postponed, reports local radio station WAMU. Instead, the events will end after a prayer service on Saturday morning. Officials hope to reschedule for September or October.

As of Friday morning, airports were operating normally, an FAA map showed. Airlines are still offering refunds and fee-free flight changes to passengers affected by the storm. For a list of affected airports, click here.

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Filed by Rebecca Dolan  |  Report Corrections