By Nick Carey
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Hundreds of flights have been canceled, Florida airports are being shuttered, train services suspended and cruise ships diverted as Hurricane Matthew heads toward the U.S. southeastern coast, with passengers and goods likely to be stranded or delayed through Saturday.
Atlanta-based Delta Airlines said 130 flights were canceled on Thursday after the airline halted operations at southern Florida airports including Miami. A further 150 will be canceled on Friday as Florida airports further north such as Orlando are affected. Additional cancellations are expected for Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday, the airline said.
A spokeswoman for Chicago-based United Airlines said the company canceled 180 flights from Wednesday through Saturday affecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Jacksonville.
“We are ready to change and cancel more flights as needed,” she said.
American Airlines canceled flights in southern Florida starting Thursday afternoon, which should resume by midday Friday. The airline said Orlando flights would cease late Thursday afternoon, with reduced service resuming Saturday morning. Jacksonville flights will cease on Friday morning and will resume on Saturday.
Southwest Airlines Co said it had canceled 60 flights for Thursday due to the hurricane.
Cruise ships were also affected. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said it had diverted a cruise ship away from the Bahamas. Carnival Cruise Line, a unit of Carnival Corp, said it would manage route adjustments as needed and had only essential personnel at its Miami headquarters.
A FedEx spokeswoman said the package delivery company is implementing contingency plans but warned of potential service disruptions.
“Contingency plans are being implemented to ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as conditions permit,” said Glenn Zaccara, a spokesman for rival United Parcel Service Inc.
Operations on No. 3 U.S. railroad CSX Corp’s main Florida line from Auburndale into Jacksonville would cease late on Thursday afternoon, spokeswoman Melanie Cost said.
Services from Florida into Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina would be curtailed until after the storm passes, she added.
No. 4 U.S. railroad Norfolk Southern Corp is moving equipment away from Southeast coastal areas and transferring shipments inland to secured rail yards. Traffic en route to affected regions is being held at yards throughout the Norfolk Southern system to alleviate congestion in those areas.
Miami-based trucking and logistics company Ryder System Inc will close its headquarters during the storm, spokesman David Bruce said. But he added that Ryder is “repositioning rental trucks to the affected areas and working to ensure an uninterrupted fuel supply for our customers in the days after the storm passes.”
RETAILERS CLOSE SOME STORES
Retailers were likewise shutting up shop in southeast Florida on Thursday. Nordstrom Inc said it had closed 15 locations.
A spokesman for Costco said the company was closing some stores and has seen an increase in purchases of emergency items in the region such as food, water, fuel, batteries, flashlights and generators.
Dollar General Corp said 500 coastal stores received extra emergency supplies this week ahead of the storm and would close stores based on evacuation orders.
(Reporting By Nick Carey, additional reporting by Abhijith Ganapavaram and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)