NAR NXT still on despite hurricane warning
Undeterred by a stormy forecast and airport closures, NAR is moving forward with its annual mega-conference, betting on clear skies by opening day.
- Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to make landfall as a hurricane on Florida's east coast Wednesday, moving across central and northern Florida on Thursday.
- A tropical storm warning has been issued for inland areas including the Orlando metro area, but weather is expected to improve on Friday.
- The Orlando airport is scheduled to cease operations at 4 p.m. on Wednesday; it is not yet known when flights will resume.
The skies look clear for the National Association of Realtors flagship conference scheduled for Friday-Sunday in Orlando, Fla. But travel delays may be in the forecast.
NAR NXT organizers say the mega-gathering is proceeding as planned, kicking off at just about the same time meteorologists predict that rain and winds from Tropical Storm Nicole will end in Central Florida.
As Nicole barrelled toward the Sunshine State Tuesday — and was expected to make landfall as a hurricane Wednesday night — Orlando International Airport said on its website that it will "cease operations at 4 p.m. Wednesday." As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the storm was tracking 210 miles east of West Palm Beach with "near-hurricane level" winds of 70 mph.
The airport is advising passengers scheduled to fly into the airport to contact their airlines for further information and did not provide details on when it would resume operations.
Delta Airlines was advising travelers on flights scheduled this week to Orlando and other areas in the storm's path to "check their flight status frequently."
NAR conference organizers are encouraging the 12,000 registered attendees to "adjust" flights as needed. "We look forward to seeing you at NAR NXT," the association said in its emailed statement to members, noting that "storm conditions are expected to clear Orange County by the morning of Friday, November 11." All conference events are still on the schedule as planned.
Robert Drummer, an agent with Future Home Realty, suggested attendees facing potential flight cancellations or delays fly in to Tampa, where he's based, or Jacksonville or Sarasota. All are within a 2- to 2.5-hour drive of Orlando. Drummer said he will be attending the conference Saturday and Sunday, where the forecast is for clear skies and a temperate 75 degrees.
"We are still sending representatives from our association," said Twis Lizasuain, CEO of the Osceola County Association of Realtors, which has close to 6,000 members. "We're still planning on attending."
Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Lizasuain said that "today was the only day it was windy. We are getting some rain," as the storm heads toward Central Florida. Lizasuain said she will continue to monitor the storm and its path.
The National Weather Service is forecasting that the tropical storm will arrive like an unwelcome guest over Orlando on Wednesday evening bringing a storm surge, potential hurricane conditions and heavy rain with flooding. But Nicole is expected to have passed through by Friday morning, as the conference kicks off.
The conference is scheduled for Friday through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center. Area hotels that have been booking reservations say they remain open for business. At the Hyatt Regency Orlando, the hotel said Tuesday that all services remain open, and events and activities are continuing as planned.
We will update this article as more information is available or if conditions change.