Travelers who evacuated Florida before Hurricane Irma made landfall are going to find themselves with very few options for getting back home, at least for a couple of days.
As airports begin to reopen Tuesday, several will be operating on limited schedules until airlines ramp up operations later in the week. Train service back to Florida is also suspended until further notice.
Those trying to get on the road will find few rental car offices open Tuesday, but several will begin to open as the week goes forward, including Hertz.
Still, although some roads across Florida are passable, state officials want evacuees to exercise extreme caution when driving home.
We’re trying to encourage people to stay off the roads. Conditions are just now being assessed.
Beth Frady, spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol
In Miami-Dade, a countywide curfew was lifted Tuesday, and the curfew in Broward County was lifted on Monday. Miami Beach started allowing residents back in at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Some cities, however, still have curfews set to give cleanup crews more space to work on restoring power and hauling away fallen trees and other debris.
And in the Florida Keys, one of the places hit hardest by Irma in the U.S., the message was clear from local officials Monday: Don’t come back home yet. There is no power, running water or flushing toilets. Although residents of the Upper Keys will be allowed to return starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Monroe County officials said the area south of Islamorada will not be ready to receive evacuees who left prior to Irma at least for a couple of days.
Monroe set a dawn-to-dusk curfew Tuesday to keep people away from dangerous roads and let cleanup teams drive in.
Those looking to fly back into South Florida are looking at massive cancellations and limited air service for the days ahead.
According to flight tracker website Flight Aware, a total of 4,110 flights are canceled at Florida airports through Wednesday. Cancellations are expected to decrease as the week goes on, with 152 cancellations scheduled for Wednesday as of Monday, largely at MIA, FLL, Orlando International Airport, Tampa International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.
If you are looking to buy a ticket in the next week or so expect to pay a higher price as the demand for seats will be greater than normal because of the limited capacity.
Thomas Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations for CheapOair
Thomas Spagnola, a travel expert and senior vice president of supplier relations for CheapOair, said passengers who already have tickets will be the first to be attended to.
“If you are looking to buy a ticket in the next week or so, expect to pay a higher price as the demand for seats will be greater than normal because of the limited capacity,” Spagnola said. “To try and save money, look at the secondary airports as compared to the major airports.”
Most of all, Spagnola suggests a heavy dose of patience.
“The next three to seven days will be quite hectic of trying to have the airlines get their normal flights back into the system,” he said.
Miami International Airport was operating at 30 percent Tuesday and urged passengers to check with their individual airlines before going to the airport. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which reopened Tuesday, and Palm Beach International Airport, which reopened Monday afternoon, are both also running limited schedules.
Renting a car
Grabbing a rental car back to South Florida will be unlikely early in the week, but is expected to become easier as rental car offices began reopening Tuesday.
Enterprise Holdings, which owns the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands, plans to reopen Tuesday as long as conditions were safe, said spokeswoman Lisa Martini. Enterprise has more than 500 car rental locations throughout the state, including neighborhood and airport offices.
The company is also working to add vehicles in affected areas in the coming weeks to ensure customers have replacement cars if theirs were damaged due to the storm.
Rental car giant Hertz has some locations open in South Florida Tuesday.
Rental car giant Hertz has some locations open in South Florida.
Its office at Palm Beach International Airport was still open Monday. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s location opened Tuesday, Hertz spokeswoman Lauren Luster said. The Rental Car Center at MIA also opened Tuesday.
Hertz is allowing customers with cars already rented to return them to branches within 500 miles of the original rental location at no charge. Cancellation fees on guaranteed reservations will also be waived.
The following Hertz locations in Broward and Miami-Dade are open Tuesday:
▪ 901 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
▪ 455 SE 24th St., Fort Lauderdale
▪ 1290 W. 49th St., Hialeah
▪ 15809 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines
▪ 16525 NW 57th Ave., Miami
Miami International Airport’s Rental Car Center will reopen on a normal schedule Tuesday.
Tri-Rail trains and shuttle buses were suspended until further notice Monday. Amtrak’s operations in Florida are also canceled until further notice.
Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.