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Tourism Infrastructure Repairs Moving Forward in Florida Keys
Recovery efforts continue throughout the 125-mile-long Florida Keys island chain after Hurricane Irma struck the destination Sept. 9.
American and Delta airlines and Silver Airways have resumed commercial air service into Key West International Airport. Still, overnight visitors are asked to postpone immediate vacation plans throughout the island chain and contact their airlines and hotels for further details.
The Port of Key West has reopened for daytime operations and the first cruise ship port call is expected Sunday, Sept. 24, or Tuesday, Sept. 26.
All bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway are safe for travel. A few breaches in the roadbed caused by storm surge were quickly repaired according to Florida Department of Transportation officials.
During a Thursday Monroe County Emergency Management conference call, the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative reported restoration of almost 100 percent of its customers who are able to accept power, from Ocean Reef in North Key Largo through Marathon in the Middle Keys. FKEC officials said they would start releasing mutual aid crews who came to help from areas outside of the Keys.
Keys Energy Service officials indicated that some 95 percent of power had been restored from Key West to Crane Boulevard on Sugarloaf Key. Some 400 crews are working in other parts of the Lower Keys from Sugarloaf to the Seven Mile Bridge.
The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority says that all of the islands except Cudjoe Key and Summerland Key now have water 24/7. The boil-water order has been discontinued for Key Largo (excluding Ocean Reef) through Tavernier as well as Shark Key through Key West (except Rockland Key). Water quality testing is ongoing in other parts of the Keys where a boil-water order remains in effect.
"The Keys have come a long way in a short time, but we still have work to do to get the Keys ready for visitors,” said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi.
A local state of emergency is still in effect, and Florida Keys officials continue to discourage visitors who wish to travel the Keys via the Florida Keys Overseas Highway to avoid hindering recovery efforts.
The island chain’s official targeted reopening date is Oct. 20, the beginning of Key West’s Fantasy Fest. However, that date may be advanced.
Irma’s damage impacts vary among Keys regions. Key Largo and Key West have the fewest impacts, and properties there have returned or are returning to regular operations. Islamorada’s bayside and Marathon’s gulfside facilities have substantially fewer effects than oceanside. Some oceanside resorts and facilities will require weeks or months of repairs to reopen for business.
The Lower Keys, located between Marathon and Key West, received the brunt of the storm and recovery is likely to take the longest for many residents and businesses in that area.
“We’ll be welcoming visitors as soon as we get the full go-ahead from Monroe County officials and cities within our five distinct tourism districts,” said Harold Wheeler, the Keys tourism council’s director.
Visitor information is available at www.fla-keys.com. Additional details about infrastructure updates can be found at www.KeysRecovery.org, a dedicated informational site.
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