Florida’s tourism industry is assessing the damage this morning from Hurricane Irma as the state heads into the busy holiday and winter travel bookings season.
City, state and local tourism officials in southern Florida were only this morning beginning to see the extent of the damage as Irma tracked through northern Florida. At least four deaths were confirmed in Florida and officials were estimating the damage could top $100 billion.
In and around Orlando, where the back end of the hurricane still lashed out with rain and high winds, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and Sea World, all remained closed through Monday, Sept. 11. The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 as it passed through Florida’s tourism capital, significantly diminished from when it entered the state on Sunday.
All American Airlines flights at Florida Airports remained canceled through Monday. American also cancelled flights at Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. The airline is uncertain when it would resume service throughout the state.
In Miami and Miami Beach, the lingering effects from Sunday’s lashing were significant. Irma was still rated at a Category 4, sustaining gusts of more than 100 miles per hour, as it passed through.
The storm surge pushed water from Biscayne Bay onto Miami’s Brickell Avenue, flooding the first floors of many buildings there. The arms of two construction cranes in downtown Miami collapsed due to the wind, closing off access to those areas.
On the hotel’s website, the general manager of the Urbano on Brickell Avenue requested that the public refrain from communicating with the property until after Wednesday, Sept. 13. The property closed at 12 p.m. Friday, in advance of Irma’s arrival.
NBC Nightly News reported Sunday night that the CEO of Miami International Airport said the facility had sustained significant water damage, but this could not be confirmed as well. Posting on its Twitter account late Sunday night, Miami International Airport reported that some airlines were flying personnel and crew into the airport today, and that “we will determine if passenger flights will resume on Tuesday, September 12.”
The National Weather Service reported that as of 10 p.m. Sunday, Fort Pierce, north of Palm Beach, FL, topped the state’s rainfall amounts, with nearly 16 inches. Everglades National Park, received the second highest amount, about 13.6 inches.
The Florida tourism bureau posted a notice on its website urging tourists to postpone their trips.
Storm entered Florida on its west coast
Florida’s southern tip and west coast appear to have been most severely impacted, as the hurricane took a late westerly turn from the Caribbean as it finally headed north. Key West, Marco Island, FL, and Naples, FL, all appear to have sustained significant water damage from the storm surge and winds.
While there were no specific hotel updates from any of the major chains, Collier County Emergency Services reported late Sunday night that approximately 90% of the county’s homes and businesses were without electricity.
The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers posted on its website that “if you are traveling Sept. 11 through Sept. 13, most airlines have cancelled flights at RSW due to Hurricane Irma. You should contact your airline to get the most current information.”
At the Florida Keys’ tourism Facebook page, the organization stated that “Infrastructure assessment teams are to begin deploying Monday to better understand the situation, aid our island community and its residents. Planned travel to the Florida Keys island chain in the near future should be postponed.”
The organization is posting updates on its website.