Flights Canceled, Airports and Theme Parks Close as Hurricane Nicole Hits Florida

The hurricane was then downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved over central Florida.

Passenger check-in kiosks are covered in protective plastic at Daytona Beach International Airport

Paul Hennessy/Getty Images

Hundreds of flights have been canceled as Hurricane Nicole slammed Florida early Thursday morning as a Category 1 storm.

The storm made landfall at about 3 a.m. on the eastern coast, just south of Vero Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

On Wednesday, Orlando International Airport had 298 flights cancelled, or 57% of its schedule, according to FlightAware. Palm Beach International also saw 73 flights cancelled, representing 76% of its schedule. So far on Thursday, Orlando has seen more than 400 flights cancelled, or 81% of its schedule.

By later Thursday morning, Nicole had been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved over central Florida, the NHC noted, but with tropical storm-force winds extending out up to 450 miles and a combination of a “dangerous storm surge” and tides causing “normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.” 

Waves crash into the pier at Daytona Beach, Florida, as Tropical Storm Nicole approaches

Paul Hennessy/Getty Images

On Thursday night and Friday, Nicole is forecast to move across the Florida Panhandle and into Georgia.

Several airlines issued flight waivers this week ahead of the storm as it barreled over the Bahamas and airports announced plans to shut down. Orlando International Airport, which initially ceased “all commercial operations” at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, said that evening there had been more than 470 flights affected by the closure.

“MCO is finalizing all hurricane preparations throughout the facility including sandbagging doors and tying down all boarding bridges,” the airport wrote in its advisory. “All non-essential airport personnel, not part of the ride-out crew, have been sent home until further notice.”

Several other area airports also closed ahead of the storm, including Orlando Sanford International Airport and Melbourne Orlando International Airport. Palm Beach International Airport, which also closed on Wednesday, reopened its terminal at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

Miami International Airport remained open, but warned travelers “may experience cancellations and delays as a result” of the storm.

Several airlines issued travel waivers for Florida, the Bahamas, and beyond due to Nicole, including Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. Spirit Airlines did the same for travel to and from Florida.

Additionally, theme parks in the Orlando area closed early for the storm, including Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort. By Thursday, Disney said it would plan to implement a phased reopening starting at noon. Universal Orlando similarly said it expected “a phased and delayed reopening on Thursday, Nov. 10 and will update once we assess conditions.”

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