After tearing through the Caribbean, record-breaking storm Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida with almost unimaginable ferocity. According to Weather.com, Irma was responsible for at least 73 deaths and left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, Florida, and Georgia. The areas most severely damaged by Irma will take years to recover, assuming that the can secure the billions of dollars that will be required to fund the recovery effort. On the Continental U.S., Florida, and in particular the Florida Keys, have suffered the worst damage.
As Irma approached millions of Floridians evacuated to safe areas, over six million people were left without power and the Florida Keys were placed under curfew. The Florida Keys were placed under curfew on September 11, for the safety of those who remained and to deter the looting of properties that had been evacuated. As reported by the Seattle Times, the curfew has been lifted today and tourists can now return to the Florida Keys.
Of course, the economy of the Florida Keys is heavily reliant on the tourist industry. According to the Sun Sentinel, 50 percent of the jobs in the Florida Keys rely on tourism, so getting tourists back to the area has to be a priority. Tourism accounts for 60 percent of every dollar spent in the Florida Keys
The problem is that returning residents have found the Florida Keys to be a very different place after Hurricane Irma. Tourists arriving on the Keys are about to find the same thing. The Tampa Bay Times reports that trailer park residents returned to the Keys to find that their homes no longer existed. Those affected need tourists to return, and return quickly. If there are no tourists that will mean no paycheck for many, and no money to begin the long process of putting lives back together.
Cruise ships and tourist flights have now resumed into Key West, and traffic on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway is flowing. However, officials have admitted that not all tourist facilities have recovered from Irma. The Florida Keys are open, but they are a long way from recovery.
Of course, the worst thing that could happen now is for Florida to be hit by another tropical storm. As reported by the Inquisitr over the weekend, two tropical depressions had formed off Florida, though neither looked likely to become a major storm. Unfortunately, the National Hurricane Center is reporting that the danger to Florida is far from over. As reported by the Palm Beach Post, Michael Brennan, acting branch chief of the hurricane specialist unit at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says that the riskiest period for hurricanes still lies ahead.
“Unfortunately, on the heels of Irma, the riskiest time of year is still ahead of us.”
“If you are going to get a major hurricane landfall in October, it’s likely going to be in South Florida.”
We have to hope that we have seen the last of this year’s big storms. Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria have caused more than enough damage and it may be years before the affected areas recover completely.
[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]