Florida Keys Begins Irma Recovery, Remains Closed to Visitors

by Jessica Montevago
Florida Keys Begins Irma Recovery, Remains Closed to Visitors

The Florida National Guard searches a demolished sailboat left abandoned in Boot Key Harbor. Photo: David Sterphone/Florida National Guard


Tourists are being asked to postpone upcoming travel plans to the Florida Keys, as the region begins to recover from Hurricane Irma.

Officials did not give a timeline when visitors will be allowed back, but most tourism facilities expect to return to operations soon after the power, water and communications are restored. Key West officials anticipate their island will be open by Fantasy Fest, the annual costume festival, on Oct. 20. However, anyone with “near-term reservations” is urged to reschedule.

Residents and business owners were allowed to return to the Upper Keys (Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada) on Tuesday, but others have to wait until areas are cleared of dangerous debris and search-and-rescue missions are completed. 

Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys, a chain of 42 islands, Sunday as a Category 4 storm. FEMA said 90 percent of home in the Keys suffered some degree of damage. Monroe County countered that, saying “Contrary to reports, no assessments have been done to accurately determine percentage of damage.”

Most of the region remains without internet or cell service. All 42 bridges along U.S. 1, the main road into and out of the Keys, have been inspected and cleared. Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon will remain closed to commercial service until electricity and water have been restored.

Fort Lauderdale resumes operations
The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades reopened early Tuesday morning. Four cruise ships that were delayed due to the storm are scheduled to return to Port Everglades today and Wednesday. 

The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is fully operational. Hotels along the area's coast line have reported no damage and are in the process of reopening by the end of this weekend as power is restored, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. Many hotels remained opened during the storm to provide shelter for displaced visitors and residents.

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