Is Miami International Airport Closing for Hurricane Irma?

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Clouds dot the sky as people prepare for Hurricane Irma on September 7, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Current tracks for Hurricane Irma shows that it could hit south Florida this weekend.

Is Miami International Airport closing because of Hurricane Irma? Is it open or closed?

It will be extremely difficult to fly in or out of Miami after Friday if the worst Irma projections occur, although the airport is technically remaining open. Greg Chin, the spokesman for MIA, told Heavy on the evening of September 7: “The Miami International Airport terminal remains open, and will only close if severe damage or safety concerns from Hurricane Irma result in stranded passengers and non-essential airport employees being evacuated to nearby shelters after the storm.”

In other words, it depends on whether the worst projections materialize, something that, unfortunately, looked more likely in the recent forecast models.

National Hurricane Center

Chin also provided the following information on September 7:

“As of 4:00 p.m. today, there are 41 departures and 55 arrivals (96 flights total) cancelled at MIA because of Hurricane Irma.”

However, it will likely be extremely difficult to fly in or out of Miami after Friday evening because some carriers are suspending service. Chin provided a statement from American Airlines, which read:

The latest forecast projects Hurricane Irma to make landfall in South Florida this weekend as a major hurricane. Due to the track of the storm, we will wind down operations on Friday afternoon at our Miami hub, as well as Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. Operations will be canceled throughout the weekend. Additionally, flights that were scheduled to arrive in Miami Friday from Europe and South America have also been canceled. Our last departure on Friday from Miami is scheduled to be AA2213, departing at 3:49 p.m. ET for Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. At Orlando, we will wind down our operation Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, and all flights will be canceled Sunday. Resumption of service will be based on airport and roadway conditions, including the ability of our team members to get to work.

Furthermore, many of the flights that do remain are sold out (and photos are filling social media showing the crowded airport). Chin added, “Other airlines at MIA are expected to take similar steps, so passengers are urged to contact their individual airlines regarding their flight status before coming to the airport. Passengers should only come to MIA if they have a confirmed ticket. The airport is not a designated shelter during a storm, and operational needs at MIA may require occupants to be evacuated to nearby shelters.”

The airport noted in its September 6 message on the hurricane: “The Federal Aviation Administration does not close its control tower at MIA until sustained winds (not gusts) reach 55 miles per hour, at which point planes cannot take off or land.”

The peril to Miami is so severe that officials “issued a mandatory evacuation order for mobile homes, residents of Zone A, and the Barrier Islands, which include: Bal Harbour, Bay Harbour Islands, Golden Beach, Indian Creek Village, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, Sunny Isles Beach and Surfside” on September 6.

In its 5 p.m. September 7 update, the National Hurricane Center wrote that it’s become more likely that Irma will make landfall in Southern Florida as a dangerous hurricane. The Miami Herald reported that the latest forecasts show “Hurricane Irma might deal a direct blow to Miami, new models suggest, but there’s still plenty of time for that to change. Computer runs that earlier leaned to the east shifted back to the west Thursday evening, putting Miami at the center of the Category 5 hurricane.”

In contrast to MIA’s decision, “Fort Lauderdale Hollywood-International Airport said Thursday that the last flight from FLL will depart at 7:45 p.m. Friday” and will then be closed Saturday and Sunday,” according to the Miami Herald, which noted that American Airlines is the largest carrier at MIA.

To get the latest information on airport operations, the airport advises that people follow its Twitter page @iflymia. The airport had not announced a closing as of the evening of September 7.

On September 7, the airport tweeted, “Due to #HurricaneIrma, please confirm that your flight is operating before coming to the airport. Many flights have been canceled.”

A security situation complicated matters further: “Security incident involving a single suspect & @MiamiDadePD has occurred at MIA. Situation under control. Terminal J is temporarily closed,” the airport wrote without providing additional details. NBC reported that “a police-involved shooting was reported at Miami International Airport Thursday evening… The incident forced officials to temporarily close Terminal J. The shooting involved a single suspect and Miami-Dade police.” More details were not released. Chin told Heavy, “There was a security incident tonight in MIA’s Concourse J area involving a single suspect and Miami-Dade Police. The situation is under control and Concourse J is temporarily closed.”

The airport was extremely busy on the 7th. “The garages are at capacity, if you are flying, please use alternate means of transportation to arrive at MIA. #HurricaneIrma,” the airport noted. The airport also reminded people that it is not a hurricane shelter.

In an alert on its website, American Airlines wrote, “Hurricane Irma is projected to make landfall in South Florida this weekend. Operations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, West Palm Beach and other airports will be affected.”

The airline added, “The latest forecast projects Hurricane Irma to make landfall in South Florida this weekend, resulting in more than 2,200 canceled flights throughout our worldwide network. Operations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, West Palm Beach and other airports will be canceled throughout the weekend. Flights originating from Europe and South America that were scheduled to arrive Friday have also been canceled.” American added: “The current travel alert that has been issued allows customers whose travel plans are impacted by Hurricane Irma to rebook without change fees.”