Delta Flight DL431 from JFK to San Juan left New York at 8:39 Wednesday morning, as Hurricane Irma was approaching Puerto Rico.
By the time the plane was halfway to its destination, flights from JetBlue and American Airlines were already turning around to avoid the category 5 storm.
But DL431 didn’t relent. While the winds were low, the Boeing 737 slipped down the San Juan runway, taxied, swapped passengers as fast as possible, and flew up out of the storm zone 25 minutes ahead of schedule.
At the time of this writing, the plane’s return flight, DL302, is still 15 minutes from landing safely back in New York.
You can see Rabinowitz’s full coverage of the flight here.
UPDATE: The return flight DL302 landed safely at JFK at 4:22PM EST, 39 minutes early.
JFK is experiencing inbound flight delays of 1 hour and 24 minutes on average due to runways in use.
Irma Rips Through the Caribbean
Irma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in ten years, with winds up to 185 miles per hour. It first hit Antigua and Barbuda, and has already done considerable damage to the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy. Casualties are expected.
The path of the category 5 storm is directed toward the Bahamas, and by the weekend it is expected to reach Florida. By then it could be downgraded to a category 4, the size of the storm that hit Houston last week.
The breadth of the storm’s destruction so far is not yet known. French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said that the French colony in Saint Martin had suffered major flooding and devastation to even the “most solid” buildings.
More Storms Ahead
Meanwhile, as Irma batters the Caribbean, two more tropical storms are brewing. Jose is following in Irma’s wake. Another weather system in the gulf of Mexico has just been named Tropical Storm Katia. It’s the fourth such storm in two weeks.
August through October is peak hurricane season. Experts from the Climate Prediction Center say that multiple storms forming in succession is not abnormal for the season . You can see live updates of Hurricane Irma at the BBC.