Thursday morning, the Florida Panhandle and parts of Georgia awoke to blocked roads, downed trees, flooded streets and flights that were either canceled or rerouted. Travelers were being urged by airports, airlines, and government entities to avoid travel to the area for their own safety and for the safety of rescue crews who are frantically working to assess the damage.
Although the regional air travel hub, Atlanta-Hartfield airport, fared relatively well and stayed open during the storm.
Among the region’s smaller airports, which had closed while the hurricane made landfall, Tallahassee International Airport, was scheduled to reopen on Thursday; Panama City remained closed to commercial flights; Destin Fort Walton Beach airport had reopened; and Pensacola International Airport was open but with cancellations.
Scattered flight cancellations were being reported at airports across the region, from Florida to the Carolinas, including at airports in Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C. Most airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, have advised affected passengers to contact the airline for further information, and many airlines are offering refunds and waiving change fees for those whose travel has been interrupted by the storm.
Ground travel also remains affected, particularly in northwest Florida. Florida governor Rick Scott urged residents and travelers on Wednesday to stay off the roads so that emergency responders could get to the area. Those with questions were being directed to the website Floridadisaster.org.
On Thursday, Uber services remained suspended in the Tallahassee and Panama City areas, and Megabus canceled some bus travel through the area from Orlando, Atlanta and New Orleans.
Power outages were reported across the region on Thursday, creating further challenges for residents and travelers alike.
In Panama City, Fla., on Thursday morning, hotel phones went unanswered, even at the area’s major chain hotels like Holiday Inn and the Hilton. Airbnb has activated its “Open Homes” program, which allows local Airbnb hosts to open their homes to evacuees for free.
The Florida Panhandle at this time of year is normally a haven for savvy travelers who have timed their vacation to land during the shoulder season. The area’s white sand beaches and emerald waters are some of the most beloved vacation spots in the region for residents of the Gulf Coast.
But by Thursday morning, the storm’s damage made clear that some of the area’s most sought-after beaches had been significantly changed. Mexico Beach, Fla., a sleepy beach community along a quiet strip of white sand — which locals often describe as being akin to white sugar — was particularly hard hit by the storm. Images of the community showed utter destruction, with entire blocks of homes completely wiped out, leaving only driftwood behind.