Hurricane Earl’s whipping winds are adding a wrinkle to an already busy three-day weekend where more than 34 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home, even as the storm weakened as it headed toward New England.
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“We’re recommending that people prepare, plan early, call ahead to the airlines and look at alternate routes to get places,” AAA’s Nancy White said.
Continental Airlines canceled 60 departures out of Newark Liberty on Friday, but “they are all regional — Continental Express and Connection only,” airline spokesperson Andrew Ferraro told msnbc.com.
Southwest Airlines said it canceled flights Friday at three East Coast airports — Islip, N.Y., Providence, R.I., and Boston's Logan Airport — as the hurricane approached. The airline expected to resume service at all three by Saturday morning.
Southwest expected to resume flights Friday afternoon in Norfolk, Va., where flights were canceled starting Thursday night.Video: Last-minute Labor Day travel tips (on this page)
JetBlue on Thursday announced pre-cancellations on three flights — JFK-Bermuda, JFK-Nantucket and Boston-Bermuda.
“JetBlue is monitoring the storm, but [we] don’t expect further cancellations,” spokesperson Allison Croyle said.
Arriving flights at New York's LaGuardia airports were delayed about half an hour Friday because of weather, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Nearly 1.4 million air travelers are expected to pass through JFK, Newark and La Guardia this weekend, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey predicted.
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Travelers moving through storm-affected areas are advised “to check status online prior to leaving for the airport,” Croyle said.
Continental, JetBlue and several other carriers are waiving change fees and fare differences for travelers who are forced to change their plans.
Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston until Saturday morning after a tree fell across electrical lines in New London, Conn., at about 12:30 p.m. The rail carrier already had planned to stop service by 4:30 p.m. due to the storm.
On Massachusetts' Cape Cod, ferries to and from Nantucket were suspended at noon, leaving some vacationers stranded on the mainland. On the island, a steady line of pickup trucks towed boats to safe storage until the storm passed, assistant town manager Gregg Tivnan said.Video: Will Earl leave your weekend plans awash? (on this page)
In Atlantic City, Bob Quinn of Rochester, N.Y., was planning to leave ahead of the storm Friday.
"We were going to be leaving Friday by noon, so we figured we would probably catch the good weather and get out of here just before the bad stuff came in," Quinn said.
One man drowned in rough surf in New Jersey on Tuesday and another was missing after going into the ocean Thursday night, state officials said.
Ellen McDonough of Boston and a friend were waiting in Hyannis on Friday morning for one of the last ferries to Nantucket. The two had long planned a Labor Day weekend getaway to the island.
"It's not a 3-foot snowstorm. I think us New Englanders are tough," McDonough said. "We've had this weekend planned, and no hurricane is going to stop us."
The National Weather Service was forecasting winds up to 65 mph on Nantucket, with gusts up to 85 mph. Earl packed winds that had reached 145 mph before losing strength.
In North Carolina, portions of Highway 12, the main artery through the Outer Banks, were closed because of tidal flooding. Officials said the road to and from Hatteras Island — home to seven villages — would stay closed through Friday.
The highway is critical should residents and tourists who obeyed evacuation orders try to return soon. Several counties had asked people to leave risky areas, including Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.
On Ocracoke, Highway 12 was open to 4-wheel-drive traffic early Friday, Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell said. Officials hoped to open the road to all vehicles by the end of the day.
Farther north, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri urged drivers to stay off Interstate 95, which was expected to flood Friday evening.
In Maine, two cruise ships, including the Explorer of the Seas with about 3,000 passengers, sought the safety of Portland Harbor to ride out the storm. Hundreds of smaller boats were pulled from the water up and down the coast.
About 10.3 percent more Americans are expected to travel by car this holiday weekend compared to last year, AAA said.
The group also estimated median spending for the Labor Day holiday at $697 per household this year, $50 more than last year.
“About 50 percent of that $50 increase is going to accommodations, food and beverage, so we all know that prices are creeping up in the hotel business and throughout the country,” said AAA's White.
Msnbc.com staff, NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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