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Hurricane Sandy Impacts Travel
Hurricane Sandy Impacts Travel

International and domestic travelers with plans to travel along the east coast of the United States are to be on high alert beginning Sunday, October, 28th through Tuesday, October, 30th. Hurricane Sandy is expected to bring large scale destruction to coastal towns, lead to widespread and prolonged power outages and shut down all modes of transportation in the coming days. According to officials Sandy is expected to hit land as a Category 1 hurricane, but has attributes of a hurricane with much higher force. This is due to the fact that Sandy is combining with another storm, which will intensify force.


The anticipated path of the storm has caused authorities to issues warnings for the eastern seaboard from South Carolina all the way up to Maine. Strong remnants of the hurricane are also expected to hit as far west as western Pennsylvania and western New York State. While the beginning stages of the storm can already be felt in the United States the hurricane is not expected to reach full landfall in the Carolinas until the evening of the 28th and the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut region early on the 29th. The storm is expected to hit with maximum sustained winds of up to 75mph. Rainfall has been forecast from 3-8 inches throughout the affected areas, however the real concern of flooding comes from the overflow of the ocean, lakes and rivers into surrounding towns. Flooding may reach up to 8 feet in the most severely hit areas.

States of emergency are in effect in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Expect extensive air, ground, and maritime disruptions including road, bridge, and tunnel closures; rail and mass transit interruptions; port closures; and flight cancellations.

According to The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) there could be an interruption of about 580,000 business trips, and while a portion would be rescheduled it is estimated that business travel would initially lose about 514,000 trips, both domestically and internationally, due to the storm-related cancellations.    

In addition to flight cancellations, major storms also tend to bring trains and buses to a stop and disrupt power, making life difficult for travelers and commuters. NJ Transit has canceled all trains for Sunday evening and all of Monday. New York City has followed suit and will suspend all trains after 7pm on Sunday. The Metro North and Long Island Railroad are expected to shut down operations for a couple days as well. In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused flights to be grounded at airports across the East Coast, from Miami International Airport to Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.

For those already traveling to the East Coast many mandatory evacuations have already been ordered. New York City has divided the city map into zones as you can see in this link (http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/storms_evaczones.shtml). Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered a mandatory evacuation of anyone in Zone A. Officials do not expect this to expand to other zones but stay up to date as the storm progresses. Also, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has ordered the evacuation of all casinos by Sunday, October 28th at 4pm. He has also evacuated all of Long Beach Island and numerous other coastal cities.

It is uncertain whether Sandy will hit the East Coast as a hurricane or just a severe tropical storm. Estimates have ranged from the worse storm in 100 years, colliding with a nor'easter to create a so-called "frankenstorm," to shrinking drastically in force.

Advice on Travel

When many flights are delayed at major travel hubs, it can be nearly impossible to find a nearby hotel room, so it's wise to book an airport hotel immediately. Use your laptop as well as call the hotel to find the best price. Rooms will fill-up quickly and you don't want to be stuck sleeping the airport. There are usually no refunds, so think of this as insurance in case you do experience a long delay.

HotelTonight is a great app for finding last minute deals with rooms that aren't always online, or if they are, the app often has much lower prices than you'll find online. You can book the rooms up until 2 a.m.

In case of a delay, don't forget to carry a few items that'll make it more tolerable. Pack your computer and cellphone chargers, an extra shirt, a toothbrush, some hearty snacks and water. If lines are really long at the airport, or worse - you get stuck on the tarmac for hours, the crew usually doesn't serve snacks or water, so go prepared. The Packing Pro app for iPhone will help you remember what to bring before you leave on your trip. The federal government's FEMA has also set up a website to help travelers and residents prepare their "go bags" in case they need to evacuate immediately. This and other tips can be found at Ready.gov.

If traveling by air, download the app of the airline you're flying on, which you can use to access your ticket for check-in. The app will also usually have up-to-the-minute flight information. If you have iOS 5 you have access to Passbook, which holds your ticket information and alerts you if your departure gate's been changed. Follow the airline on Twitter, too. And before you leave, store these phone numbers on your smartphone: your hotel, your airline and your doctor.

Travelers should start being pro-active now by preparing for the worst. Here are a few tips:

1. Most airlines now have apps for smartphones, and, sites such as Skyscanner offer free apps with flight schedules. Make sure you have at least one of these apps downloaded to your smartphone to keep up with the latest flight delays and cancellations. Be sure to have your airlines reservations number handy. This website offers toll-free numbers for most major airlines in the world: http://www.tollfreeairline.com/

2. Don't wait until the day of the storm or even a day before the storm's arrival to rebook or extend your hotel reservations. (Especially in New York City which is entering its high season and hotels are in demand.) Just be sure you fully understand the hotel's cancellation and no-show policies before making any changes or making a new reservation.

3. Rental car agencies will be extremely busy as stranded travelers seek other means of transportation to their destinations. Make reservations at more than one rental car agency to raise your chances of getting a car when you show up. Check with each individual rental car agency regarding their no show and cancellation policies.

4. AMTRAK and commuter train passengers should also expect delays, and, possible cancellations up and down the East coast. Keep abreast of updates by checking websites: AMTRAK service disruptions: http://www.amtrak.com/service-alerts-and-notices; NJ Transit Travel Alerts & Advisories: http://www.njtransit.com/sa/sa_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=TravelAlertsTo; and, NYC Subways, LIRR and Metro North Travel Advisories can be found on the MTA website: http://tripplanner.mta.info

5. If leaving on a cruise, cruise ships do not come into shore if there is a storm, so the voyage may be delayed. If the cruise has already started and the storm's still bad, they might skip one or two ports. Most cruise ships have apps as well as Twitter accounts, which can be followed to stay current on the latest information

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