- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Hurricane Isabel grounded more than 2,000 flights yesterday, but caused only minor disruptions because of advance planning by airlines and their passengers.

By the time heavy rain and strong wind arrived in the evening, few airlines, trains, buses or their passengers were left out in the open.

An information booth clerk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport summed up the attitude of travelers catching the last flights out of the airport before the 4 p.m. shutdown.

“They’re not coming in here getting a big surprise,” the information clerk said. “I think they know what’s going on.”



Flights at the airport were expected to resume at 6 a.m. today.

The last flight left Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 5:30 p.m. Flights resume today at 8:30 a.m.

“The airlines did exactly what they should do,” said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan and Washington Dulles International airports. “They had to get their airplanes out of the path of the hurricane.”

Delays rippled throughout the nation’s airline system because of flight interruptions in the Mid-Atlantic area, but Miss Hamilton said they would not last long.

“It’ll probably go into Saturday before we get back into regular flight schedules.”

Airlines suspended flights at 19 airports in the Northeast, South and Midwest, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Some travelers headed for one New York area airport were held up for six hours.

Passengers delayed at Reagan Airport grumbled about the inconvenience.

Patrick Tibbits, a Valparaiso, Ind., engineer trying to return home, threatened to file a complaint with the FAA when his flight at Reagan Airport was canceled. His airline was unable to arrange an alternate flight for him yesterday.

“It shows a lack of concern for your welfare,” he said.

Jiri Smetana, an Arlington lawyer, called the early cancellation of his flight yesterday “ridiculous.”

“I’m just trying to make it down to the Florida State and Colorado game in Tallahassee,” Mr. Smetana said. “I’ve seen worse weather than this.”

Amtrak also reported only minor disruptions.

The railroad shut down all trains south of Washington in the hurricane’s path and reduced Northeast Corridor trains by about 10 percent as many regular passengers stayed at home.

“No fires, no floods, no trees down, no catastrophes at all,” Dan Stessel, Amtrak spokesman, said yesterday afternoon. “The worst of the delays is 21 minutes and everything else is on time.”

Greyhound Lines shut down its D.C. bus terminal at 6 p.m. yesterday as a precaution.

“We have contingency plans in place to deal with severe weather,” spokeswoman Kim Plaskett said.

Bus trips from the District to New York are scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. today.

The U.S. Department of Transportation set up its Crisis Management Center yesterday morning to track any breakdowns in aviation, marine, rail, highway, pipeline or transit systems.

If a problem arose, the Transportation Department planned to coordinate an emergency response.

For airlines, Federal Aviation Administration repair crews were sent to seven major Mid-Atlantic airports and aviation navigation sites to restore service if the storm caused interruptions.

The Maryland Department of Transportation shut down the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for the first time because of high winds.

“They’re up in the air and they’re on the Bay,” said Robert Flanagan, Maryland transportation secretary. “The wind just has a clean shot going down the Bay.”

Transportation Department officials issued the shutdown order at 3 p.m., after engineers measured 50 mph to 59 mph winds on the bridge. They were trying to avoid a repeat of the September 1999 accident in which Hurricane Floyd overturned a tractor-trailer on the bridge.

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