Tropical Storm Elsa: Major US airlines waive change fees for Florida cities as storm nears

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Fox Business 06 July, 2021 - 09:27am 22 views

How bad is a tropical storm?

A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph (34 to 63 knots). A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph or greater (64 knots or greater). weather.govTropical Definitions

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As Tropical Storm Elsa continued to barrel toward the Florida coast on Tuesday, a handful of major U.S. airlines have loosened ticket-change regulations for cities in the Sunshine State.

According to a Southwest Airlines travel advisory, customers holding reservations to, from or through Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Florida's Fort Myers, Sarasota/ Bradenton and Tampa from July 4, through July 7, may rebook in the original class service or travel standby within two weeks of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs without any additional charge.

Delta Air Lines will allow flights to, from or through Fort Myers, Key West, Sarasota or Tampa initially booked for July 6 and July 7 to be rebooked without charge with a ticket reissued for no later than July 10, in the same cabin of service as originally booked.

The airline's customers must have an original ticket issue date on or before July 4.

If Delta customers are unable to reschedule within those parameters, upon canceling the reservation they may apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original issuance.

American Airlines will permit the fee for tickets bought by July 4 to be waived if customers don't change their origin or destination, rebook in the same cabin or pay the difference, were scheduled to travel from July 4 through July 7, can travel through July 12, are booked by July 7 and changes are completed within one year of their original ticket date. 

Applicable cities include Fort Myers, Key West, Sarasota/Bradenton and Tampa.

United Airlines' list of airports is more extensive, including Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Key West, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

The airline's customers must have purchased their original ticket by July 3 with original travel dates between July 5 and July 7, with any difference in fare and change fee waived for flights departing between now and July 14 assuming travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin and between the same cities as originally ticketed.

For a change in departure or destination city or wholly rescheduled travel after July 14, the change fee will be waived but a difference in fare may apply. 

In addition, rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date the ticket was first issued.

United told FOX Business in an email Tuesday that the company would "continue to monitor the situation."

On Tuesday morning, Tropical Storm Elsa passed over Cuba and was moving into the Florida Straits.

The storm could strengthen over the next 24 hours before making landfall north of Tampa on Wednesday and a Hurricane Watch has been issued for a portion of the west-central and Big Bend Coast of Florida.

Tropical storm warnings are still in effect and tropical storm conditions are likely to continue across the Keys through Tuesday night. 

Once Elsa makes landfall, it is expected to weaken, though heavy rain, wind and the risk for tropical tornadoes will continue. 

Three to 5 inches of rain will fall across Florida and the Southeast Coast, with isolated amounts over 8 inches, where localized flooding is possible.

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TRACK, MODELS, UPDATES, MORE: Elsa forecast to hit Florida as hurricane

WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando 06 July, 2021 - 02:35pm

In addition to damaging winds and heavy rains, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges, flooding and isolated tornadoes. A hurricane warning has been issued for a long stretch of coastline, from Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay to the Steinhatchee River in Florida’s Big Bend area.

In Central Florida, Marion and Sumter counties remain under tropical storm warnings as of Tuesday afternoon. Lake County is under a tropical storm watch. All three counties announced schools will be closed Wednesday.

A tornado watch has been issued for Osceola and Polk counties.

“Although the environment is not conducive for significant strengthening before landfall, only a slight increase in intensity would result in Elsa becoming a hurricane” Tuesday night or early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. advisory.

The Tampa area is highly vulnerable to storm surge because the offshore waters and Tampa Bay are quite shallow, experts say.

Elsa now projected to make landfall as a hurricane along the Big Bend of Florida. Local impacts remain unchanged. pic.twitter.com/LMoPu8944u

But on the barrier island beach towns along the Gulf Coast, it was largely business as usual with few shutters or plywood boards going up. Free sandbags were being handed out at several locations, and a limited number of storm shelters opened Tuesday morning in at least four counties around the Tampa Bay area, although no evacuations have been ordered.

Nancy Brindley, 85, who lives in a seaside house built in 1923, said she has experienced 34 previous tropical cyclones and is not having shutters put on her windows. Her main concern is what will happen to sand on the adjacent beach and the dunes that protect her house and others. She’s staying through the storm.

“The main concern here is, if it doesn’t speed up and decides to stall, there will be enormous erosion,” she said.

Friends Chris Wirtz, 47, and Brendan Peregrine, 44, were staying put at a beachfront inn with their families. Both are from Tampa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) across the bay and have been through storms many times.

“Before we left, we knew it was coming,” Wirtz said.

Peregrine said the two families had been coming to the Pinellas County beach for 10 years. He noted they have ample supplies and a charcoal grill to cook on if the power goes out.

“We can hunker down for days,” Peregrine said.

Still, some people were taking no chances. Annie Jones, 51, has lived along the Gulf Coast her entire life. She was buying ice and food at a local grocery store in advance of the storm.

”I’ve seen this happen over the years and I decided to load up,” Jones said. “I thought it’s best to beat the crowd. My vision is to be prepared.”

Across the Tampa Bay region that’s home to about 3.5 million people, events, government offices and schools were closing down early Tuesday in advance of the storm.

The Tampa Bay Rays game against Cleveland was postponed until a doubleheader on Wednesday, the team announced. Most schools, in their summer terms, will be closed through Wednesday, and attractions such as Zoo Tampa and several museums were closing early.

Bands of rain were expected to reach Surfside on Florida’s Atlantic coast, soaking the rubble of the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed June 24, killing at least 32 people. Search and rescue crews have worked through rain in search of more than 100 others listed as missing, but must pause when lightning threatens, and a garage area in the pancaked debris already filled with water Monday, officials said.

Elsa’s maximum sustained winds stood at 70 mph (112 kph) early Tuesday. A slow strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night and Elsa could be at hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida. Its core was about 95 miles (152 kilometers) northwest of Key West, Florida, and 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of Tampa. It was continuing to move to the north-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to cover a dozen counties where Elsa was expected to make a swift passage Wednesday.

Forecasters predicted Elsa would hit coastal Georgia and South Carolina after Florida. Georgia’s coast was under a tropical storm watch, as was much of the South Carolina coast. Forecasters said tornadoes could strike in the eastern Carolinas and Virginia as Elsa moves north.

Tampa International Airport planned to shut down Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Elsa’s westward shift spared the lower Florida Keys a direct hit, but the islands were still getting plenty of rain and wind Tuesday. Tropical storm warnings were posted for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the west coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ochlockonee River.

Cuban officials evacuated 180,000 people against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on ClickOrlando.com, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

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