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Charleston’s airport, visitor businesses shutting down as Idalia nears SC

Travelers can expect delayed flights and plans this week, as Hurricane Idalia disrupts the airline system in the Southeast.

All flights in and out of Charleston International will be halted at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 when the air traffic control tower is expected to shut down. Many were canceled Wednesday, ahead of the arrival of the named storm.

Flight traffic is expected to resume after 8 a.m. Thursday, according to airport officials.

On Wednesday, at least 49 flights were affected and at least 17 more on Thursday have been disrupted.

“Our airline partners are adjusting their flight operations, and it looks like the last arriving and departing flights will take prior to the tower closing today,” airport spokesman Spencer Pryor said. “Travelers should contact their airline for any questions regarding delays, cancellations and rebooking.”

The runways, which are owned and shared by the neighboring Air Force base, are closed when sustained winds reach 40 mph.

The storm’s winds are expected to pick up as Idalia’s path covers the Palmetto State coast with heavy rainfall and strong winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Visitor attractions and hospitality businesses were shutting down across the Lowcountry on Wednesday and Thursday, just ahead of the typically busy Labor Day weekend.

Idalia will cost many of them at least one day of revenue that can’t immediately be recaptured. 

The International African American Museum was among the many attractions that opted to close out of precaution. Ticketholders who had reservations for Aug. 30 or Aug. 31 will receive automatic refunds.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum along the Mount Pleasant waterfront also closed as Idalia passes. It plans to reopen at 10 a.m. Sept. 1.

Last year, hotels in the greater Charleston area were at 86 percent occupancy for Labor Day weekend, with more than 49,212 room nights sold between that Friday and Sunday, according to the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis. Occupancy tends to spike around holidays, as travelers take advantage of the holiday to extend their trip.

Explore Charleston spokesman Chris Campbell said that while the weather has caused flight delays and difficulties for travelers midweek, there is a sense of optimism for numbers to remain on track over the weekend.

“Understandably, the weather is having an impact on visitor activity this week,” he said. “We’ve been in contact with our industry partners and many have experienced mid-week cancellations. Fortunately, the weather is forecast to be beautiful this weekend. If the storm passes without significant impacts in our region, we anticipate it can be a successful Labor Day weekend.”

Michael Linder, general manager of The Mills House, said that the hotel has seen few cancellations for this weekend’s bookings.

“We are still preparing for and expecting a busy holiday weekend. The Mills House, along with our industry partners in the city, is ready to welcome guests as soon as the storm passes,” Linder said.

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.

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