Hurricane Irene impacts Chicago travelers

August 26, 2011 7:09:34 PM PDT
Hurricane Irene is already affecting travel around the country and the situation is only going to get worse as the storm heads up the East Coast.

The hurricane will likely force hundreds of flight cancelations on the East Coast which will have a ripple effect across the country. The airline carrier JetBlue has already cancelled more than 400 flights for the weekend. Early Friday evening, Chicago based United said it would be canceling 2,300 flights this weekend to and from the east.

Several people, like Jeffrey Parnell of Lake Forest, arrived at O'Hare Airport Friday morning from the East Coast, having just dodged Hurricane Irene.

"When I left yesterday and that was in the afternoon, it was sunny and warm and really no signs that anything was coming. It was pretty much a mad rush to get off the island at that point," Parnell said.

Parnell had to evacuate from the Virginia coast just as his vacation was ending.

"We were notified 'cause we rented a beach house with the family and we were notified that we had to get out by a certain amount of time," Parnell said.

Other Chicagoans also got out of harm's way by cutting trips early.

"It was a nightmare in the rental return car 'cause everybody was trying to leave," said Jim Marett, who arrived at the airport from Virginia.

"I got the first flight out today. I could have gone later this afternoon or tomorrow evening, but I wanted to get out and I saw other people trying to get out," said Greg Thompson, who arrived at the airport from Virginia.

The hurricane didn't stop some travelers leaving for the East Coast from O'Hare Friday morning. Many were still able to catch their flights going to cities like New York and Washington.

"I'm going and hoping nothing is going to happen, because I planned for a two-day vacation, so I'm going," said Katrina Araujo, who is traveling to New York.

"We're just going to D.C., so I think we're going to get rain Saturday and Sunday, but otherwise it sounds like we should be able to get in and out without a big problem," said Amber Rich, who is traveling to Washington.

"We're little worried about coming back on Sunday, if we're going to be able to leave the East Coast and come home," said Kim Jacobson, who is traveling to Washington.

Many airlines are encouraging travelers to postpone their trips. In fact, major airlines including U.S. Airways, American, United Continental, JetBlue, Southwest and AirTran have dropped ticket change fees for passengers scheduled to fly to or from many cities along the East Coast this weekend.

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