Floridians Fly Home Before Frances Visits

Pat Kolling won't find the word Frances in her puzzle. But she will find a storm named Frances once her delayed Gulfport flight gets back to Florida. "It can't be any worse than Charley," the Southeast Airlines passenger said while she sat in the airport. "Charley was scary."

Hurricane Charley grazed the St. Petersburg area two weeks ago. One passenger described the devastation from that storm by saying, "You could see 20-30 trees snatched up out of the ground."

With Frances now aimed toward south Florida, these passengers were pretty sure it would spare their west coast homes. Karen McLean said she wasn't concerned. She looked at her husband sitting in the waiting area and said, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen." Downstairs, Frank Pelt sat with his wife. She read the paper. He kept tabs on the storm. "I'm not worried in our area that much," Pelt said. "But I would like to get home to my 18 year old daughter who's at the house."

But getting home wasn't easy. Many flights into Florida had long delays. That's why the Southeast passengers were sitting in the waiting area. At least their flight was still on the schedule. Right next to the Southeast counter is Air Tran. And this airline had to cancel its 3:21 departure to Ft. Lauderdale.

So Florida passengers stuck in Gulfport had to practice patience. While they waited, they read books, played cards, and planned out their storm strategies. That way, they would know what to do once they landed near the possible path of Hurricane Frances.

McLean had a very simple plan. She would get home, "unpack, relax, and go in the Jacuzzi."

Kolling was much more anxious. She evacuated to Daytona before Charley. It veered away from home, and slammed into the Daytona area. So leaving prior to this storm was not an option. "I'm going to spend a lot of time in my bathtub," she said. "I'm going to take my mattress and go in the bathroom."

Bathtub, mattress, and bathroom -- three more words linked to the hurricane, but not found in Pat Kolling's puzzle.

Kolling couldn't board her flight until the plane arrived from St. Petersburg. That flight was delayed because the charter was missing more than 60 passengers, and charters don't take off until they account for those people. Airline officials speculated that the cancellations were due to Hurricane Frances.