Sandy’s effect on tourism likely to be minimal

Sandy as seen from a NASA satellite

Although Tropical Cyclone Sandy forced the cancellation of some 12,000 flights in the United States, the impact on Costa Rica tourism appears to be minimal.

Several flights to Juan Santamaría airport from Newark, New Jersey, and New York were canceled Monday as the storm neared the U.S. mainland. A United-Air Canada flight to Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia from Newark was canceled too, as was the return flight.

Airline companies had good reason to keep their aircraft grounded. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that wind gusts of from 79 to 90 mph were reported at New York’s JFK International Airport Monday evening. Newark is just across the Hudson River.

The Miami-based hurricane center said that there were storm surges of more than 13 feet in lower Manhattan where some streets were flooded. Atlantic city, New Jersey, near where the storm made landfall suffered the loss of part of its famous boardwalk.

Despite the disruption in air travel to Costa Rica, airlines are offering passengers alternate dates. In addition, the airlines are mobilizing their aircraft fleets to handle the extra load when the storm moves to the north along the Saint Lawrence River. So the net loss of tourists is likely to be negligible.

Flights from eastern Canada will be disrupted later in the week.

Airlines reported disruptions in flights in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Cleveland in Ohio and Buffalo in New York. Boston, Massachusetts appears to be outside the direct path of the storm but likely to be feeling the indirect effects. These airline hubs are feeders for international flights.

Costa Ricans know about indirect effects because Atlantic cyclones hundreds of miles to the east frequently bring heavy rain and damage to the country.

The New Jersey coast is no stranger to hurricanes. The area experienced Hazel in 1954 and Donna in 1960. Both storms maintained their strength as they passed over land in much the same way Sandy is expected to do. Hazel caused 81 deaths in Canada’s Ontario Province. Hazel was so devastating that forecasters retired the name.

At 9 p.m. Costa Rica time, the storm center was 15 miles southwest of Philadelphia with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph or 120 kph. The hurricane force winds ranged from Virginia to Massachusetts, said the Miami center.

Strong winds extend in all directions from the center by as much as 485 miles or 780 kilometers, the center said.

As the effects of the storm met a strong cold front over West Virginia, the rain is turning to snow. From one to two feet are predicted.

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