Hurricane season, which peaks between August and late October in North America, is in full swing: Hurricane Lane hit Hawaii just two weeks ago, dumping up to four feet of water on parts of the archipelago, and just a week ago, Tropical Storm Gordon brought around ten inches of rain to some parts of the U.S.’s Gulf Coast. That was only the beginning, it seems, as four storms are hurtling toward different parts of the U.S. right now.
Hurricane Florence Heads Toward the Carolinas
Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm (out of 5) with 130 mph winds, is expected to strengthen and be “the most powerful storm to hit [North and South Carolina] in three decades,” according to CNN. The NHC expects the storm to hit the East Coast late on September 13 or early the next morning and bring intense flooding with it. So far, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have announced states of emergency in preparation for the storm, CNN reports. More than 1 million people have received mandatory evacuation notices—including the entire South Carolinian coast into parts of North Carolina and Virginia—starting at noon on September 11.
NEW: Florence is now a category 4 hurricane. Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb (27.93 inches) https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/wfLt6fJPl2
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
Seven cruises—including Norwegian, Oceania, and Carnival ships—have been affected already, according to Cruise Critic, and most are swapping out stops in Bermuda, which won’t be hit directly by Florence but will see lots of rain September 12, replacing them with stops in the Bahamas, which is much farther south and out of the hurricane’s path. But the Norwegian Dawn is switching up its route altogether, sailing to New England and Canada instead.
Some airlines are allowing free changes to travel plans to avoid potential hurricane-related delays and cancellations. Here are the travel waivers so far:
- Alaska Airlines passengers flying to or from Charleston and Raleigh/Durham between September 10 and 16 can change their itinerary for free. Your new departure flight must take off on or before October 1. If you want to cancel your trip, you can also get a full refund.
- American Airlines is waiving change fees and the difference in fares for passengers traveling to or from 23 airports in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. If you’re scheduled to fly September 13-16, you can reschedule your flight between September 10 (if you want to get out before the storm) and September 19.
- Delta Air Lines is offering change fee waivers for flights in and out of 12 southeastern airports, including Charleston, Savannah, and Richmond. Passengers scheduled to fly September 13 to 16 can rebook for free on flights on or before September 20. You can delay your trip further, beyond September 20 if you want, but you’ll have to pay the difference in fares.
- JetBlue is allowing passengers flying in or out of Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, and Richmond between September 13 and 16, to rebook their flights for free. You’ll have to rebook your itinerary on or before September 20.
- Southwest Airlines is offering a travel waiver for passengers flying in or out of Charleston, Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Raleigh/Durham, and Richmond September 12-16. You can rebook within 14 days of your original departure date at no cost.
- United Airlines passengers flying to or from 16 airports—including Asheville, Charleston, and Greenville/Spartanburg—between September 10 and 16 can change their itinerary for free, as long as the new travel occurs on or before September 20. Flights rebooked after September 20 will still cost the difference in fares.
Tropical Storm Olivia Circles Hawaii
On the other side of the U.S., a tropical storm with 70 mph winds is churning in the Pacific, just north of the Hawaiian Islands. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says it will hit the Aloha State with heavy rainfall, high winds, and surging ocean levels September 11 and 12. The NHC is asking that residents and visitors to all of Hawaii’s islands “not focus on the exact track” of the hurricane, and start preparing regardless of Olivia’s forecasted landfall. That being said, Maui and the Big Island are most at risk of flooding, and the NHC expects the storm to stick around through September 12.
A few airlines are offering to waive change fees and fare differences for passengers flying to or from Hawaii this week. You don’t need to do anything extra to switch flights—just make the adjustments to your reservation online or call customer service if you booked over the phone. Here’s what we know:
- Alaska Airlines passengers flying to or from Honolulu, Kona, Lihue, and Maui’s Kahului airport on September 11-12 can change their itinerary for free, as long as the new travel starts on or before September 20.
- American Airlines is offering free itinerary adjustment to passengers flying to or from Honolulu and Maui on September 12-13. You can either rebook to leave Hawaii before the storm hits or move your trip to after the storm passes, between September 10 and 16.
- Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees and the difference in fares for flights on September 11 and 12 to or from Honolulu, Kona, Maui, and Lihue. You have to rebook you travel on or before September 15. (If you have to postpone your trip further, you can rebook for after September 15, but you’ll have to pay the difference in fares.)
- Hawaiian Airlines is waiving change fees and the difference in fares for all flights heading in, out, or between the Hawaiian islands September 11-13. You can rebook your itinerary for free as long as your departure flight is on or before September 20. You’ll have to pay the difference in fares if you rebook for travel after September 20. Generously, the airline is allowing you to fly somewhere else instead, waiving the change fee. You’ll still have to pay the difference in fare, though.
- United Airlines is offering travel waivers for travelers heading to or from Hilo, Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, and Lihue between September 11 and 13. New flights most be rebooked to take off on or before September 17.
Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene Eye the Caribbean
Behind Florence in the Atlantic Ocean are Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene. Accuweather forecasts Isaac will hit the Caribbean—including St. Lucia and Antigua—September 13 and 14. Hurricane Helene, meanwhile, is a Category 2 storm that’s so deep in the Atlantic it likely won’t make landfall.
Due to Hurricane Isaac, some airlines are offering travel waivers for change fees.
- Delta Air Lines is offering passengers flying to, from, or through San Juan, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas September 13-14 to reschedule their new flights for free, as long as they depart on or before September 19. If you want to reschedule your trip for long after hurricane season (or at least after September 19), you’ll just have to pay the difference in fares.
- American Airlines passengers traveling to 14 Caribbean airports—like Dominica, Punta Cana, St. Croix, and San Juan—on September 12-14 can change their itinerary for free. The new flights must take off on or before September 17.
If you’re planning a trip to the East Coast or Caribbean in the coming months, listen in to the most recent episode of Travelogue to ensure you stay safe during hurricane season—admittedly one of the best and cheapest times to visit some of our favorites Caribbean islands but with a whole bunch of asterisks when it comes to safety and insurance.
We will update this story as more news becomes available.