Should I leave DC early to avoid Florence?
September 10, 2018 9:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm supposed to leave DC (flying) on Thursday mid-morning. Hurricane Florence is supposed to make landfall in the Carolinas sometime Thursday. Should I try to get a flight out Wednesday afternoon?

What I've read says that the hurricane will make landfall Thursday sometime, but that high winds and flooding could be felt before that. What I'm having trouble parsing out is when things could get hairy in DC.


- I really, really want to get home by Thursday evening because I have an event this weekend outside Seattle I've been looking forward to.
- It will cost at least $400 to change my flight or just book a new one. I can afford that, but would obviously rather not spend the money. Of course, if I have to stay longer, that could also be significantly more expensive. Not to mention potentially being stuck in the middle of a severe weather event thousands of miles from home!
- The map on this link makes it looks like DC won't experience high winds until Friday, right? Not sure if I'm reading it right.

Obviously, it's hard to predict storms like this, but folks who have experience with similar storms: what would you do?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
Flying to Seattle? I'd say Thurs. mid-morning should be fine. Here in Western NC we're not expecting to get anything from Florence until Thurs. evening. You're not flying anywhere near the expected track, so you should be fine.
posted by MovableBookLady at 10:01 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, flying to Seattle through Chicago. So away from the storm.
posted by lunasol at 10:05 PM on September 10, 2018

Where is your plane coming from? If it's coming from Florida, let's say, it will never make it to DC to pick you up. I'd try to take an earlier flight.
posted by Toddles at 10:26 PM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

This DC native wouldn't do a thing. Your flight will probably be fine. When the hurricanes are hitting the NC coast, there's just rain in DC. The hurricane may move inland, but the winds always die down by the time the storm reaches the Beltway. Of course, weather delays elsewhere can affect your flight, but Sea-Tac's the other direction; you should be okay.
posted by Rash at 10:27 PM on September 10, 2018

I'd leave earlier if you want to be 100 percent sure and can take the expense. Things back up, hurricane tracks change, stuff gets canceled.

It doesn't seem like it will be an issue, but personally I'd leave earlier.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:32 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes. Even if DC is unaffected by the weather there's a cascade effect when things like this happen.

Note that you won't be alone in having this thought, so pull the trigger now if you're going to. You might be okay, but I wouldn't risk it.
posted by jzb at 1:53 AM on September 11, 2018

If you can, I would. I can see this storm disrupting flights all up and down the east coast. Even if DC isn't directly affected by the hurricane, there could easily be cascading effects on flight schedules. And this storm is expected to stall out once it's made landfall, so the disruption is likely to be ongoing. Get on out of there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:34 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’d hold tight. In the past, when storms threaten, most airlines have given me the option to reschedule for free. If they haven’t, then things are usually fine. I believe that DC to Chicago is a commuter flight, so that plane is just going back and forth all day and unlikely to get affected by the storm.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:41 AM on September 11, 2018

Is it a mainline carrier or a LCC (i.e. Southwest or Spirit)? If it’s the former you should be okay so long as the storm track stays the same. There’s more slack available in their aircraft scheduling. SW is more likely to have the inbound plane coming from an impacted area, and is more susceptible to schedule snafus.
posted by hwyengr at 4:30 AM on September 11, 2018

Mainline carrier - United. :-/
posted by lunasol at 6:07 AM on September 11, 2018

Southwest last night expanded the "free change" cities to include all three DC-area airports, so if you're not on southwest, I'd at least wait for your airline to do something similar before paying. [I know this because I have 4 flights involving BWI between now and sunday that I can't reschedule or move, sigh.]
posted by advil at 6:10 AM on September 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

See if they'll re-book you at no charge to make room for the inevitable travel problems caused by a big storm. It is to their advantage to get you home sooner - 1 less seat to have to re-book, 1 more seat available for another stranded passenger. Note that other airlines are doing this at no cost.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

If the money's not an issue, it likely wouldn't hurt to change the ticket to earlier if you want. Personally for the time being, I wouldn't do anything - as mentioned upthread, the plane is likely going back and forth or possibly coming from another United hub (ORD, EWR, SFO, etc - none of which are in the path of the storm) so the weather is unlikely to affect your flights.

Also note that effects aren't supposed to hit the DC area till Friday into this weekend. Right now they're predicting potential heavy rainfall but no major wind - bad for those of us who live here (flooding is likely) but unlikely to cause significant flight issues.
posted by photo guy at 9:36 AM on September 11, 2018

I don't think the past experiences of posters here are relevant these days, hurricanes have been getting consistently more vicious every year lately. they have evacuated all the vacation spots in coastal nc and va, that alone could make flights wonky already just due to fleeing tourists from va beach and the outer banks.
posted by elgee at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The big problem you may have (as noted above) is if your flight doesn't ORIGINATE in DC, your inbound aircraft may not be able to get to DC. You're flying United, so your options are better than if you were flying American, who is hubbed out of Charlotte and will probably experience some issues.

I think you're probably going to be fine. Are you flying out of DCA or IAD? I'm guessing IAD since you're on United, so I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by Thistledown at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think the past experiences of posters here are relevant these days, hurricanes have been getting consistently more vicious every year lately.

Yeah, I actually grew up on the East Coast so I know from hurricanes, but this one is notable for having the potential to be the strongest hurricane that lands the farthest north AND to have unusual impacts on inland areas like DC. Thanks, climate change!

Anyway, I figured I might as well call United and see what they could do. They got me on a flight tomorrow afternoon after my meetings are over, with no fee (after a bit of cajoling) so I'm heading home tomorrow. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by lunasol at 6:31 PM on September 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

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