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Hurricane Idalia shutters Florida airports and cancels more than 1,000 flights

Hurricane Idalia is causing major flight disruptions across Florida and beyond after making landfall on the state's Gulf Coast on Wednesday. 

The storm, which made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, by Wednesday morning had canceled more than 1,000 flights and delayed nearly 900 more traveling to and from U.S. airports, data from flight-status tracker FlightAware shows. 

The hurricane has since been downgraded to a Category 1 about 2 1/2 hours after landfall, as wind speeds decreased to 90 mph. Its rating was previously changed to Category 2 roughly an hour after landfall. 

Three major Florida airports, including Tampa International Airport, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport closed on Tuesday ahead of the storm, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) Tuesday that it was re-routing and limiting flights in Florida. 

Tampa International Airport is reopening to incoming flights only on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern time, it said in a post on social media. The airport plans to resume full operations at 3 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, according to a notice on its website.

"TPA is fortunate to have avoided the worst effects of such a dangerous storm, after acting in an abundance of caution to protect the safety of our passengers, employees and facilities," Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement on the site. "We're focused now on returning to full operational capacity to continue serving our community and to assist in recovery efforts for our fellow Floridians."

In a 12:30 p.m. press conference, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the eye of the storm had left Florida. But storm surge was expected to continue and worsen as the tide rose later in the day. 

Gainesville Airport and Tallahassee Airport, both of which closed on Tuesday, will reopen Thursday "first thing in the morning," DeSantis said in the briefing. 

Other area airports, such as Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, are experiencing heavy travel disruptions, the FAA's airport event tracker shows. 

Hurricane Idalia Strikes Florida With Powerful Category 3 Winds
Residents walk through floodwaters from Hurricane Idalia in Gulfport, Florida, on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.  Bloomberg

Idalia touched down in Florida's Big Bend region early Wednesday, whipping the state's Gulf Coast with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.

Southwest Airlines on Wednesday reported that 211, or 5%, of its flights have been canceled while another 202 trips were delayed, according to FlightAware data. The hurricane has also affected flight schedules for Delta and American Airlines, each of which has reported more than 200 combined flight cancellations and delays, the data shows. 

Those airlines, alongside other major American carriers, such as United, have issued travel advisories for the storm and are allowing affected travelers to rebook their flights for free, their respective websites show. 

Flights aren't the only form of travel Hurricane Idalia has thwarted. Amtrak has canceled passenger train trips for 10 of its East Coast routes scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, the company's service alert shows.  

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