The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys announced Monday, October 2, that it has reopened to visitors despite significant damage due to Hurricane Irma just three weeks ago.
The island chain officially reopened Sunday, October 1, which marked three weeks after Irma passed over the Keys on September 10.
Local officials reopened so fast due to the speedy completion of significant infrastructure repairs, almost total restoration of utilities, and the necessity of resuming the tourism-driven economy that employs about 50 percent of the Florida Keys workforce. This means anglers from all over the world can take advantage of the Keys’ famous inshore and offshore fishing opportunities.
Stacey Mitchell, director of marketing for the Florida Keys tourism council, said welcoming tourists back to the popular destination “will provide jobs and the hope that our residents are looking for so they can begin to rebuild their lives.”
While Key Largo and Key West dodged major impact from the hurricane, a number of lodging properties and other tourism facilities haven’t yet resumed normal operations. Recovery efforts continue, particularly in the Lower Keys and parts of Marathon that were hit hardest by the storm.
“It’s been a road of recovery and continues to be so, but we’ve made enough progress where the infrastructure is ready to accept visitors,” Mitchell said.
Hurricane Irma severely impacted islands in the Caribbean before it passed over the Keys and traveled north along Florida’s western coast. Many fishing organizations are raising money to help with storm relief for Irma as well as Hurricane Harvey, which impacted Texas’ Gulf Coast.
Tourists will find the Key West and Marathon airports open and the Port of Key West hosting cruise ships again. The Florida Keys Overseas Highway has passed inspection and is drivable throughout the 125-mile island chain.
Even Key West’s iconic photo opportunity — the Southernmost Point marker, which designates the continental United States’ southernmost land mass — is being repainted after damage from the hurricane.
A number of events scheduled for October — including Key West’s Fantasy Fest, Marathon’s Stone Crab Eating Contest and Key Largo’s Humphrey Bogart Film Festival — will happen as scheduled, according to organizers.
For more Florida Keys & Key West visitor information, visit the Florida Keys website or call 800-FLA-KEYS.