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article imageHurricane Irene creates panic as airports shut down

By Kim I. Hartman     Aug 27, 2011 in Travel
New York - Thousands of flights have been cancelled at airports in the northeast as Hurricane Irene continues to roll up the east coast bringing with her torrential rains and 85 mph winds.
Hurricane Irene, which is expected to remain a Category 1 storm as she continues her destructive path northward, has affected airports from the Carolina's to the New England states with closings due to heavy rains and high winds expected from Irene.
Irene's winds have weakened somewhat since she made landfall in North Carolina but "the hazards are still the same," said the National Hurricane Center's Mike Brennan. "The emphasis for this storm is on its size and duration, not necessarily how strong the strongest winds are."
Airports along the east coast impacted by the hurricane have closed to incoming traffic and will shutdown all operations by Saturday evening.
FlightAware, a live flight tracking website, has confirmed 3,367 flights cancelled for Saturday and almost 5000 have been cancelled for Sunday. Major airports affected by the closing include Raleigh, N.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington Intl., LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy Intl., Newark Liberty, and Logan International.
Most airlines have announced they waived fees for cancellations, flight changes and refunds.
The hurricane is expected to impact the airspace of some of the busiest airports in the nation through Monday.
"I expect this will be a major disruption,” David Swierenga, a consultant with AeroEcon told Bloomberg. “You’re affecting all the major airports on the northeastern seaboard. The number of flights that they have at those airports per day is very high.”
Travelers stranded by Hurricane Irene are being forced to find hotels in each city till airports announce plans to begin passenger service. Airport shuttles have been made available to transport passengers searching for overnight accommodations.
Escaping the hurricane by train is no longer an option for stranded travelers. Amtrak has announced a widespread cancellation of services along the East Coast corridor. Train schedules have been reduced and all train traffic will cease on Sunday.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said they are "closely monitoring changing conditions" as Hurricane Irene continues her track north. The Port Authority said the re-opening of the airports will be determined based on the weather situation at each location, information will be posted on their website at regular intervals.
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