Hurricane Irene Cancels Hundreds of Flights; Train, Ship, College Disruptions

PHOTO: Signs hang on doors of a convenience store in preparation for Hurricane Irene
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Hurricane Irene has blown away the weekend plans of millions, from airports to cruise ships to island and beach holidays, as travelers rely on storm trackers and households prepare for strong winds, rain and possible flooding.

President Obama cut his vacation short by one day, conferencing with his emergency response team, and warned citizens of the dangers of Hurricane Irene.

"I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait. Don't delay," President Obama warned Friday morning from Martha's Vineyard, urging citizens to visit ready.gov if they are not sure how to prepare.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York City will shut down subways and other mass transit starting noon Saturday.

"We are fully committed and we are preparing for the worst," Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an evacuation of residents in specific low-lying areas by 5 p.m. Saturday. He said this is the first time the city has ever mandated the evacuation of a potential flood zone. The last shutdown of the whole mass transit system took place in 2005 for a labor strike.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Southeastern Penn. Trans. Authority (SEPTA) public transportation will cease all service beginning 12:30 a.m. EST Saturday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, eastbound traffic into Atlantic City will close to help evacuate residents in shore areas. Christie also announced Friday afternoon that all gaming activity in Atlantic City casinos will be suspended as of noon Saturday. It is the third time in the 33-year history of legalized gambling in New Jersey that the city's 11 casinos will be shut down, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, households along the East Coast are stocking up on flashlights, water and food while there is concern that strong winds and flooding could lead to losses in corn, soybean and other commodities. Some drivers are filling up their cars at the pump to evacuate, as the possibility of refineries closing on the East Coast pushes gas prices higher.

Scott Spencer, senior vice president of Chubb Personal Insurance, said homeowner's policies usually do not cover loss due to flooding, but coverage can be purchased from the federal government. Homeowners can ask their agents for details or contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661.

Trains

Amtrak has canceled most trains traveling south of Washington, D.C., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The railroad announced at 5:40 p.m. EST Friday it is canceling more East Coast trains with service reductions beginning on Saturday and will not operate trains in the Northeast on Sunday.

Amtrak may make additional announcements as the storm travels north.

Airports

While major airports remain open, airlines have canceled 5,736 flights for the weekend, according to FlightAware.com on Friday evening. FlightAware said 381 flights were canceled Friday, 1,380 on Saturday and 3,975 on Sunday.

Jetblue is the first major airline to revise its schedule ahead of Hurricane Irene, pre-canceling 891 flights from Saturday through Monday, with the majority canceled Sunday into Monday. The airline will run extra service on Saturday night and Monday night to re-accommodate customers, who are being contacted today by the airline, and put on later flights.

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