RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hurricane Florence has forced airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights in the Mid-Atlantic region through Saturday, including at Richmond International Airport.
Flights from Richmond to major airports such as Charlotte and Atlanta are already being grounded, according to airport officials.
Many airports are preparing for possible shut downs across the Carolinas caused by the hurricane.
Kailtyn Fortenberry and her 2-month-old son, Leo, were supposed to fly out of North Carolina on Monday, but they cut their trip short and fly out of Richmond back to the West Coast.
"We were down in Raleigh yesterday, and we had our flight rearranged to fly out of Richmond today, rather than this coming Monday,” Fortenberry said.
Major airlines are offering help to Florence-impacted travelers by waiving re-booking fees and capping other charges. Passengers on Delta, American, United, Southwest and Jet Blue flights will be able to change travel dates without paying extra, which usually costs at least $200.
Southwest warns that flights could be delayed or halted at multiple airports through Saturday, including Richmond, Norfolk, the DC area and the Carolinas. Cancellations are also widespread at smaller airports around the Mid-Atlantic that feed into larger hubs.
There is some fine print, but airlines are offering relief to passengers impacted by the hurricane. Some airlines, like United, are allowing extra luggage and even pets in the cabin, at no charge.
But while more than 1 million people are fleeing the storm, Glen Felder is heading right into it. Felder is a electrical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Texas. He arrived in Richmond at 2 a.m. Thursday on his way to North Carolina. There, Felder likely will stay at an Army base for months and help restore power following Florence’s landfall.
"We focus on hospitals and clinics and pharmacies and that type of thing,” Felder said. “We are trying to get there before the hurricane actually hits because that way we can coordinate our efforts and get our marching orders.”
Felder assisted with the recovery efforts following hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year, witnessing the devastation that torrential flooding and long term power outages wreak on helpless people.
"Nursing homes had rising water up to their beds, and sometimes above their beds. And these are people who were on oxygen, and some had IV’s,” Felder said.