The southeastern coast of the United States is preparing for the oncoming impact of Hurricane Florence.
The category 4 hurricane is expected to make landfall in the U.S. late Thursday night, bringing heavy winds and up to 30 inches of rain. In anticipation of the storm, governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have declared states of emergency.
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Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for both Carolinas and Virginia. South Carolina evacuation orders affect five coastal counties. Public schools and state agencies are closed beginning Tuesday. Beaches are cleared due to “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.” North Carolina’s Hatteras Island, as well as northern parts of the Outer Banks, are under mandatory evacuation. In Virginia, nearly a quarter-million people have been ordered to evacuate from the shore.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a storm surge watch, extending from Edisto Beach, South Carolina up through the North Carolina-Virginia border. The watch “means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours,” the Hurricane Center said.
Airlines have already begun issuing travel alerts and waiving change fees ahead of the storm. Across all airlines, change fees are only waived if tickets were purchased before Sept. 10.
Alaska Airlines travel to Raleigh or Charleston through Sept. 16 can be rebooked at no charge through Oct. 1.
American Airlines is waiving the change fees for travel to 23 southeastern cities — including Asheville, Charlotte, and Savannah — booked through Sept. 16. The waiver is effective on travel rebooked before Sept. 19.
Delta Air Lines travel to, from, or through cities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia through Sept. 16 can be rebooked for free by Sept. 20.
JetBlue will allow passengers with scheduled flights through Baltimore, Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond, Savannah, and D.C. through Sept.16 to rebook travel through Sept. 20.
Southwest passengers flying through Baltimore, Charleston, Charlotte, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, Richmond, and D.C. can rebook any travel currently scheduled through Sept. 17. All rebooked travel must take place within 14 days of the original flight.
United flights to and from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia through Sept. 16 can be changed for free. Rescheduled flights must take place before Sept. 20 to avoid paying any difference in airfare.