Hurricane Nicole closes Florida airports as several airlines issue travel alerts

The tropical storm strengthened into a hurricane as it approached the east coast of Florida

Tropical Storm Nicole continues to increase in strength and is expected to make landfall along Florida's east coast early Thursday. AP Photo
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Orlando International Airport closed to flights on Wednesday during extreme weather brought in by Hurricane Nicole.

Authorities confirmed that the airport would close to all commercial flights from 4pm local time on Wednesday.

It is not yet known how long the airport, which is the closest to the hugely popular Walt Disney World Resort, will remain out of operation.

“We are reviewing expectations and the actions required with airlines to determine emergency operations plans over the next 24 hours to best judge when the situation will permit operations to resume,” airport authorities said.

“Preparations continue to intensify both inside and outside the terminal at Orlando International Airport as Tropical Storm Nicole currently makes its way towards the east coast of Florida.”

American Airlines issued travel alerts for 20 airports as Storm Nicole gathered strength. AP Photo

Travellers who were due to fly to or from the airport have been advised to contact airlines for assistance. Tourists are not able to stay overnight at the airport and passengers have been advised to make their own accommodation arrangements ahead of the storm.

Melbourne Orlando International Airport, which is about 80 kilometres south-east of Orlando, is also closing to commercial flights on Wednesday. Authorities announced on Twitter that the airport will close to air traffic at 2pm on Wednesday, with further details on when it will reopen expected soon.

Further south, Palm Beach International Airport also ceased commercial flights on Wednesday morning while Daytona Beach closed in the afternoon with plans to reopen on Friday.

American Airlines has issued 20 travel alerts for airports expected to be impacted by the storm. They include Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and others in Florida; George Town, Freeport and others in the Bahamas, Savannah in Georgia and Providenciales in Turks and Caicos.

Southwest issued alerts for 12 airports, Delta did the same for flights to 17 destinations and JetBlue issued travel waivers for flights to eight other destinations in the storm's path.

Passengers scheduled to travel with the largest airline in the US between Wednesday and Sunday to any of the listed airports can change their flights without additional fees.

Emirates, which operates flights between Dubai and Orlando International Airport, has not cancelled any services. A representative for the airline told The National that the storm has not impacted operations.

Florida's Walt Disney World theme park has closed due to Hurricane Nicole. Photo by Octavio Jones  /  Getty Images  /  AFP

Walt Disney World Resort — one of the world's most visited resorts — also announced it was closing early as the storm approached. The theme park advised visitors that it was "closely monitoring Hurricane Nicole and making adjustments based on the latest information from the National Weather Service". It is expected to resume operations at noon on Thursday. The neighbouring Universal Orlando Resort closed early on Wednesday, with a weather-dependent phased reopening planned for Thursday.

Storm Nicole formed in the south-western Atlantic on Monday as a subtropical storm, but continued to increase in strength as it whirled towards Florida with winds of 110 kilometres per hour. It had strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane level as it made landfall in Florida on Thursday.

An advisory from The National Hurricane Centre had earlier confirmed: “Nicole is forecast to become a hurricane later today and remain a hurricane when it reaches the east coast of Florida".

Updated: November 10, 2022, 9:15 AM