Tampa International airport will be closed on 29 August due to fast-moving Tropical Storm Idalia, which is expected to gain force and become a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall in Florida.
Idalia is likely to become the latest major weather-related disruption to airline operations caused by severe summer weather in North America.
Residents are currently evacuating low-lying areas of the Gulf Coast, as Florida governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in 46 counties.
Idalia is currently moving from the Caribbean toward Florida at about 9mph (15kmh), says Joe Carr, an aviation meteorologist with the National Weather Service. It is expected to continue on its path for the next 24h before making landfall on the northwest coast of Florida “as a major Category 3 hurricane” early in the morning of 30 August.
“As far as impacts to airports, sometime tomorrow we’ll start to see the wind pick up, and some rain showers and possibly thunderstorms moving to airports like Naples and Fort Myers – and, very late in the day, perhaps Tampa,” Carr says. “Tomorrow night, we anticipate that Orlando and Gainesville airports will be impacted by the weather.”
Tampa International will close early on the morning of 29 August, the airport says on social media, reminding residents that it is “not a shelter” during hurricanes.
Elsewhere on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota-Bradenton International airport is to “remain open and operational” on 29 August, the airport says on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Spirit Airlines, which is headquartered in South Florida, has a travel advisory in effect 29-31 August for Fort Myers, Orlando, Pensacola and Tampa – in addition to Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The carrier has waived fees for modified or changed tickets through 6 September for those destinations.
Thunderstorms are expected to cause delays throughout the day on 28 August at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport, Charlotte-Douglas International airport, Tampa International airport, Orlando International airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport and Miami International airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA says on social media it is “closely monitoring the path of Tropical Storm Idalia”, but reminds the public that it does not close airports and urges air travellers to check with their airlines for flight updates.
The rough weather comes ahead of the busy Labor Day travel period in the USA, which the FAA expects to peak with 52,203 flights on 31 August.
Severe summer weather has created a difficult operating environment for airlines throughout North America, with wildfires recently closing airports in western Canada and heavy thunderstorms causing significant disruptions at major hubs in the Northeast USA.
US airlines also modified their flight schedules and aided evacuation efforts in Hawaii due to Maui’s devastating brush fires.