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      Irene flight cancellations have ripple effect in MB

      Flight cancellations are a guarantee as Hurricane Irene creeps up the East Coast. For those trying to get home to the Northeast from the Grand Strand, the clock is ticking and time is running out.

      "What we're seeing right now is some of the carriers are already cancelling flights, not so much for today at this point, but for Saturday morning. I think the thing we need to learn is that they're anticipating some impact, not so much here, but somewhere else in their system which will have a direct impact on our operations as well," Myrtle Beach International Airport Director Michael LaPier said.

      Some passengers checking in Friday were ready to check out, in order to beat Irene to the punch and avoid getting stranded.

      "We were staying at the Marriott Myrtle Beach and had a Friday to Friday reservation, so we feel really lucky because we're able to get out on Friday and we'll hopefully be home in time for the storm to hit us in Connecticut tomorrow night and into Sunday," Susan Vandeweghe of Richville, CT said.

      Hurricane Irene will interrupt flight systems in major cities like New York, Boston and Atlantic City over the weekend and a ripple effect will be felt on the Grand Strand.

      "That's probably what we're going to see more of with this storm at this point than actual cancellations because of conditions here. When were looking at 40 to 50 mph winds with consistent rain, that's not significant enough to cancel flights in and of itself," LaPier added.

      One passenger paid double for a ticket home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania just hours before the first large rain bands from Hurricane Irene approached South Carolina.

      "I'm just praying that we have a safe flight and that we don't get any of the rough weather that's going there," Marlene Anticole said.

      Anticole said not having to go round and round with an airline representative to change her itinerary is priceless, but that wouldn't have happened anyway. Major airlines, including US Airways and Delta have dropped ticket change fees for passengers scheduled to fly to or from many cities along the East Coast this weekend.

      "The airlines typically will do that, particularly in such an event as this where it has the potential to impact millions of people. The airlines don't want to have this problem either, but if there's something that they can do from a customer service stand point to help their passengers out down the road, they certainly have always been willing to do that and they're willing to do that now," LaPier said.

      And flexibility means options for those who think they're dodging a bullet by being in the Palmetto State when Irene pushes on.

      "The eye of the storm is supposed to hit where we are from which is Ocean City, New Jersey so our plans are to stay put here until we can get home. I don't think we'll be able to get in until about Monday," Amy Young said.

      LaPier's best advice is to get in touch with your airline regardless of your destination because even flights to the West Coast will be affected.