Hurricane Irma forces flight cancellations in and out of Tampa

TAMPA (WFLA) — With its airfield and terminal secured, Tampa International Airport shut down flight operations at 8 p.m. Saturday in advance of the impending Hurricane Irma.

The hustle and bustle at TIA hustled right out of there in the early evening.

Seats, elevators, escalators, ticket counters and gates were all empty. Plastic wrapped some ticket kiosks to prevent water damage.

Hurricane Irma is coming to Florida. People are trying to leave.

Grace Skibitsky came to Tampa looking for houses to rent.

“Just so happens I picked the wrong week,” said Ms. Skiibitsky.

She came to TIA but found no flight. About 100 flights were canceled at TIA.

“So now I’m stranded because I didn’t get out in time,” she added.

She decided to stay at the terminal.

“This was just the best place for me to be, I thought,” she explained.

Nick Jones hoped to fly back to England on Saturday. American Airlines canceled his flight to Charlotte, leaving him stranded in Tampa.

So he got in a long line at British Airway without knowing whether there would be a seat on a plane for him.

“Hoping yes, fingers crossed,” said Nick. “Won’t know til we get to the desk.”

If he didn’t make it, Nick also thought he’d stick out the storm at the terminal.

According to John Tiliacos, the executive vice president of airport operations, the terminal is not a shelter.

“It’s a very secure building, but you know we don’t have the resources to care for folks,” explained Mr. Tiliacos. “If we lose power in the building, that’s not a very safe place to be right now.”

Other people left their homes in Tampa for the safety of the terminal as well. A few homeless folks also occupied some seats for a few hours. They were all offered transportation to nearby shelters.

Nick Jones was fortunate, he got a flight. Grace didn’t. She was also put on a bus and sent to the nearest shelter.

Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com

HURRICANE IRMA COVERAGE –

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