Category 5 hurricane Dorian forces flight cancellations, airport closures

WATCH ABOVE: Bahamas battered, millions of Americans brace for Hurricane Dorian

As hurricane Dorian ripped into the Bahamas on Sunday, many travellers and residents of the Caribbean, Florida and the Carolinas have been left scrambling to escape the storm’s path as flights and cruises are delayed and cancelled.

Here’s a look at what is happening and how it is affecting travel:

Dorian strengthens to Category 5

On Sunday, the Category 5 storm pounded the northern Bahamas as it barrelled toward the islands with 298 km/h winds, ripping off roofs and tearing down power lines.

Millions from Florida to the Carolinas kept a wary eye on the slow-moving Dorian amid indications it would veer sharply northeastward after passing the Bahamas and track up the southeast U.S. seaboard.

WATCH: Trump, FEMA officials provide update on hurricane Dorian

But authorities warned that even if its core did not make U.S. landfall and stayed offshore, the potent storm would likely hammer U.S. coastal areas with powerful winds and heavy surf.

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‘Devastating’ Dorian hits Bahamas with 300 km/h winds

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dorian’s maximum sustained winds at landfall were 295 km/h, up from 281 km/h.

It is moving west at 11 km/h. “Catastrophic conditions” are occurring in The Abaco Islands and expected across Grand Bahama later in the day, the centre said.

With its 298 km/h winds, hurricane Dorian is now the second-strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 1950, when record keeping began improving.

“We don’t even know what’s coming at us,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on Sunday. “All we know is it’s possibly the biggest.”

U.S. airport closures

On Friday, Orlando International Airport posted a statement to Twitter saying it would be ceasing commercial flight operations on Monday.

According to the statement, the decision to close the airport was made collectively with “airport partners.”

WATCH: Businesses brace for hurricane Dorian in Florida, boarded up

In a subsequent tweet, the airport said it will need to “wait and see what effect the storm will have on the airport itself,” before it will know when operations will continue.

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According to a press release issued Friday, Daytona Beach International Airport will close after the last flight departs on Sunday.

“Air carriers will determine their Sunday flight schedules,” the release reads. “Passengers who expect to fly in or out of the airport on Sunday are encouraged to contact their airline for up-to-date information.”

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The airport says the airfield will remain open after midnight on Saturday for non-commercial fights, however, when weather conditions worsen it will be open for emergencies only.

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“There will be no flights beginning Monday until further notice,” the release says. “The airport is not a shelter.”

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According to a travel advisory, both the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the North Perry Airport remain open on Sunday.

“We are continuing to monitor hurricane Dorian’s projected path,” the advisory reads. “Currently, Broward County is under a tropical storm watch, however, FLL and North Perry Airport remain operational at this time.”

WATCH: Hurricane warnings in Georgia, the Carolinas

The airport urges travellers to check with their airlines about any changes to their flight schedule as some airlines have cancelled flights on Monday and into Tuesday.

Canadian airlines

On Friday, Canadian airline WestJet announced it would not be flying customers to or from Fort Lauderdale, Florida “until it is safe to resume flying.”

WATCH: Florida residents remain nervous about where Dorian will land

WestJet, in a post on its website, said customers flying from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fort Myers, Tampa and Nassau are covered under the airline’s flexible change/cancel policy until Sept. 3.

Similarly, Air Canada says, it has implemented a policy which makes it possible for some customers with reservations affected by hurricane Dorian to make voluntary changes to their itinerary.

Bahamas’ airports, ferries and cruises

In the Bahamas, the Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) closed on Friday and is scheduled to reopen Tuesday at 6 a.m., “subject to prevailing conditions,” according to an update provided by the Islands of the Bahamas.

READ MORE:
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However, the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) in Nassau is open and operating on its normal schedule.

“Nassau airport stakeholders continue to assess the movement and status of hurricane Dorian,” an advisory posted to the airport’s website reads. “On its current track, it is not anticipated that Nassau/Paradise Island will experience any storm conditions that would disrupt airport operations.”

The airport says it will continue to monitor weather conditions closely, as the storm conditions could change.

WATCH: Florida governor says he expects Bahamas will get ‘levelled’ by hurricane Dorian

And, all weekend operations and sailings by Bahamas Ferries have been cancelled “until further notice,” according to the storm update.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration has also cancelled weekend operations and will resume following the passage of the hurricane.

Grand Bahama Island’s Freeport Harbour is closed, according to the update, however, Nassau ports are open and “operating on their normal schedule.”

Walt Disney World

In a statement posted to its website, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, said it is “operating under normal conditions.”

“We are closely monitoring the path of the projected weather, as nothing is more important than the safety of our guests and Cast Members,” the statement reads.

The park said it is “taking precautions” including closing Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park on Sunday.

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The resort also has a hurricane policy, which helps customers to avoid paying cancellation or change fees in the event of a hurricane.

Mandatory evacuation orders

On Sunday, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for coastal areas of Palm Beach County and Martin County in Florida.

“If you live in these areas, heed the warning and listen to your local officials,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote in a tweet posted Sunday morning. “This is a dangerous hurricane. Your safety is paramount.”

-With files from the Associated Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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