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WNYers travel home ahead of Hurricane Ian


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall Wednesday near Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida, which had travelers frantically booking flights to get out of harm’s way.

“Rainy, wet, roads were flooded, delayed. It just took forever to get back,” Jillian Lum, of Wheatfield, said after getting off a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore. She was traveling from Fort Lauderdale.

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Western New Yorkers returned home Tuesday ahead of the storm. Some travelers say they did not have to change their travel plans, while others returned early to avoid being stuck in the Sunshine State.

“I’ve been prepared for blizzards, but never was prepared for a hurricane,” William Mathias, of Buffalo, said.

Several parts of Florida are under evacuation, hurricane, storm surge and flood warnings, which have resulted in the closure of several airports in the Greater Tampa Bay and Greater Orlando areas. Airports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have not grounded flights, but there are significant delays and cancelations.

Some travelers said it was smooth through the Orlando airport Tuesday afternoon, but others said it was very busy.

“It was good to get out though,” Tonie Bonnas, of Springville, said. “The airport was busy, busy, busy, busy. A lot of people were waiting to get home because it closes tomorrow at 10:30 [in the morning].”

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Christine Watson traveled to Buffalo from Palm Coast, Fla. for a work conference. While she is new to the state, she said many residents were preparing as they normally would, and that some were concerned about the safety and preparation of newcomers like her. She traveled from the Orlando International Airport and said she was delayed on the roads.

“Getting to the airport, I was delayed, because there was traffic as the rain started to pour,” Watson said. “It’s just a coincidence that I’m due to be out of town during this hurricane.”

Even flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale were full. Joe Abbarno, of Depew, said his trip was cut short because of the severe weather.

“They said possibly that Miami-Fort Lauderdale would get anywhere from five to eight inches of rain,” Abbarno said. “There would be some flooding and storm surges. We just weren’t sure we were going to get out.”

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Many Western New Yorkers said they can handle snow, but not a hurricane. They were just grateful to make it back before several major airports ground flights.

“I just wanted to get home. I’ve never been through a hurricane before. Being from Buffalo, we don’t get them obviously, so I just wanted to get home safe,” Rachel Balducci, of Cheektowaga, said.

Tuesday proved to be a long day for some passengers who had to reroute their travel, but they said there’s nothing like returning home.

“I’m happy to be home. I’m ready to eat some chicken wings that’s all I know,” William Scullion, of Wheatfield, added.

Airports in Florida say they are not re-opening until it is deemed safe.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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