With core winds as high as 185 mph, Hurricane Irma hit northern Caribbean islands with devastating force on Wednesday, even destroying the four strongest buildings on Saint Martin. Damage at Princess Juliana International Airport is also reportedly heavy.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest projections, Irma will pass north of Puerto Rico on Thursday morning and continue on a path that leads directly into South Florida. Obviously, that can still change, but Governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency for all of Florida, and city and county officials are preparing accordingly.
Earlier this week, American Airlines canceled flights from Miami International Airport to St. Martin, St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. Kitts, while adding an extra flight from both St. Martin and St. Kitts to MIA for people looking to escape Irma. On Tuesday, American also issued a travel alert for 27 airports — including MIA and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Key West, Palm Beach, Southwest Florida, and Sarasota–Bradenton — allowing customers to change their travel plans without incurring fees. Joining American in waiving fee changes for certain Florida airports are Allegiant, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit and United.
Key West International Airport will suspend all airline operations at the end of the day on Thursday “until further notice.” MIA will cease all operations when winds reach 55 mph. Other airports, from Boca to Orlando, are monitoring the storm’s path and urging aviators to secure their planes and remove any loose items or debris that could become projectiles. Standard operating procedures at Boca Raton Airport call for closure when winds reach 35 mph.
We will continue to monitor and update airport closures as Irma’s path becomes clearer.