Hurricane Irma interrupts travel plans, passengers flee Florida

Published: Sep. 7, 2017 at 3:31 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2017 at 6:14 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many people in the U.S. are beginning to notice the impact Hurricane Irma is having on travel, especially those traveling by air.

Airlines are preparing to cancel flights that are in the path of Hurricane Irma. On Wednesday, passengers from Florida arrived in Richmond, but not all of them came voluntarily.

One couple was told from officials to go back home because this was no time for vacationing in Florida. Another couple is leaving their South Florida home behind for a trip to Virginia that they planned before Irma ever surfaced.

"Oh yeah. I'm shaking inside," said Carol Zeber.

Zeber and her husband Ken are leaving their Ft. Lauderdale home behind for a Virginia vacation months in the making. First, they had to take care of home.

"Well we've got it all closed up," Ken Zeber said.

The Zebers are hoping they will be spared from the effects one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. As they left Florida, another couple was trying to get there.

They arrived only to hear this message: "Mandatory evacuation for all tourists. We just need to try to get everyone off the island," Nicole Gibson said.

The Gibsons just arrived in Key West to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but their excitement turned to shock.

"We're on the plane waiting to get off but because it's a storm. We can't so the girl at the bed and breakfast called and said, 'Are you girls here?' We said,
'We are here, but we can't get off the plane'. She said, 'Well, you can come, but we're going to have to send you back because of mandatory evacuation,' "
Hayden Gibson said.

One day later, they were back home. Their trip home comes as Florida braces for a possible hit by the weekend. Airlines are already shutting down operations in some Florida cities with more flight cancellations expected in the coming days.

The two couples were relieved they were not stuck, despite the disappointment and uncertainty.

"I've been every time to Key West in September but none to get kicked out," the Gibsons said.

"We are praying everything will be intact. We haven't had a phone call yet," the Zebers said.

Some airlines have offered waivers so customers can change their travel plans to Florida and the Caribbean without the normal change fees.

Others are even capping fees around $100 to help people get direct flights out of Florida ahead of the hurricane.

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