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Status Report: Hurricane Irma and South Florida’s National Parks

EVER Flamingo Visitor Center roof damage

October 10, 2017 – Hurricane Irma swept through South Florida on Sunday September 10 leaving a trail of damage in all four South Florida national parks. The National Park Service has been providing damage assessments and updates on recovery efforts since shortly after the storm. The final update is posted below, with earlier postings. Highlights include:

  • Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress is open. The Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center remains closed.
  • Flamingo in Everglades National Park is open, but there are no visitor services.
  • Shark Valley remains closed due to high water. 
  • Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Parks are open.

Restoration efforts got a boost on Saturday 09/30 when 116 volunteers joined rangers to clear debris in Biscayne National Park. Our partners at Tequesta Bay Foods donated supplies in support of the effort. Thanks to all who contributed…

Pictured above: The Flamingo Visitor Center in Everglades National Park.

For more photos of storm damage and ongoing recovery efforts, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/nps_eimt/albums/with/72157689154868055

For updates and status reports on individual parks go to https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/severe-weather-response.htm

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, TUESDAY OCTOBER 10

Homestead, Fla. – For the past month, crews from many National Park Service areas have worked on incident management teams side by side with the staffs of the parks, preserves, monuments and seashores of Florida and the coastal Atlantic parks as they recovered from the impacts of Hurricane Irma. The resiliency of the local park employees who have continued to work despite personal hardship has confirmed the faith of NPS employees from across the country that the parks community is a family and that it is strong. America’s national treasures are in good hands. The NPS is grateful to the many Americans who have expressed their concern and support. As facilities and trails continue to open, the NPS is extending a hearty welcome back!

This will be the final update from the Intermountain Incident Management Team. Information about the ongoing recovery effort in the parks can be found via each park’s website below.

Big Cypress National Preserve – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • Big Cypress National Preserve’s Oasis Visitor Center is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
  • Midway, Monument, and Burns Lake Campgrounds are open.
  • The Swamp Welcome Center remains closed at this time. Repairs are underway.
  • The Stairsteps Unit of Big Cypress National Preserve remains closed to all recreational access, including hunting, until water levels go down. Other backcountry areas are open.
  • Visitors to the preserve should expect conditions to include high water levels, downed trees, and ongoing restoration efforts. Recreational users should be prepared to turn around.
  • Landowners may continue to access private property and should expect downed trees along trails.
  • The Loop Road is closed.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • The Homestead visitor entrance is open to Flamingo. There are no facilities available at this time. Portable rest rooms are available. Boats may now be launched at the Flamingo ramps. Night closures will remain in place. The roadway is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Nighttime closure is at West Lake. Gas and food services are not available.
  • Utility crews continue to stabilize water treatment facilities in Flamingo.
  • Construction crews continue to stabilize facilities in Flamingo.
  • Saw crews are removing damaged limbs and trees from Flamingo campground.
  • Large park signs along the main road are being reinstalled.
  • Park boat operators continue marking underwater debris navigation hazards and displaced vessels in park waters.
  • Shark Valley remains closed due to high water. This is the highest water the park has seen in 86 years.
  • Gulf Coast facilities remain closed until further notice.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, SATURDAY OCTOBER 7

Homestead, Fla. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Rep. Brian Mast visited Everglades National Park today to view hurricane damage… National parks in the southeast U.S. are gradually opening as stabilization continues. The public is reminded that some areas within the parks remain closed to all use, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, due to safety concerns during cleanup operations.

Big Cypress National Preserve – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • Big Cypress National Preserve’s Oasis Visitor Center is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
  • Midway, Monument, and Burns Lake Campgrounds are open.
  • The Swamp Welcome Center remains closed at this time. Repairs are underway.
  • The Stairsteps Unit of Big Cypress National Preserve remains closed to all recreational access, including hunting, until water levels go down.
  • Visitors to the preserve should expect conditions to include high water levels, downed trees, and ongoing restoration efforts. Recreational users should be prepared to turn around.
  • Landowners may continue to access private property and should expect downed trees along trails.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • The Homestead visitor entrance is open to Flamingo. There are no facilities available at this time. Portable rest rooms are available. Boats may now be launched at the Flamingo ramps. Night closures will remain in place. The roadway is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Nighttime closure is at West Lake. Gas and food services are not available.
  • Utility crews continue to stabilize water treatment facilities in Flamingo.
  • Construction crews continue to stabilize facilities in Flamingo.  
  • Saw crews are removing damaged limbs and trees from Flamingo campground.
  • Large park signs along the main road are being reinstalled.
  • Park boat operators continue marking underwater debris navigation hazards and displaced vessels in park waters.
  • Shark Valley remains closed due to high water and the area will be monitored for future mitigations if needed to protect infrastructure.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, TUESDAY OCTOBER 3

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
  • The unpaved portion of the Loop Road remains closed due to downed trees. Clearing operations were temporarily suspended due to the presence of poisonwood. Equipment has been ordered to help accomplish safe debris removal in this area.

Biscayne National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • Park Employees returned to work today.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • The Homestead visitor entrance is currently open to Paurotis Pond, 25 miles south of the main entrance.
  • Shark Valley is having challenges with the continuing rise of water. Over the weekend sandbags were placed around the entrance station to protect it. Staff is monitoring this situation and working to protect structures as well as employee safety as the water levels in the district are of concern. The bookstore has removed their inventory from the building.
  • At Flamingo, crews are still working on housing units, as well as cleaning up the campground and boat ramps.
  • A structural engineer assessment has been requested for the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in order to develop a temporary shoring plan to stabilize the building for removal of NPS property.   
  • Clearing operations continue along the main road toward Flamingo in addition to operations in the Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast areas.
  • Saw crews are continuing work in the Long Pine Key campground and on Sandfly Island in the Gulf Coast District clearing the trail around the island.
  • Crews are assessing the status of chickees in the backcountry.
  • Park boat operators continue marking underwater debris navigation hazards and displaced vessels.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30

Homestead, Fla. – Biscayne National Park and Fort Pulaski National Monument employees were joined by nearly 200 volunteers who helped with hurricane cleanup in honor of National Public Lands Day. Volunteers removed storm debris and trash from waterways and grounds to help ready parks for reopening. More than 289 NPS employees from 14 national parks and offices are currently providing support to seven parks in South Florida and the Atlantic Coast. Crews were able to return to field work this morning as the sun broke through after yesterday’s heavy rain. Crews continue to work toward emergency stabilization of many areas. 

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
  • Park staff is scheduled to return to work on Monday, October 2.
  • The unpaved portion of the Loop Road remains closed due to downed trees. Clearing operations were temporarily suspended due to exposure to poisonwood.
  • Saw crews cleared Watson Campground, Sand Fly Campground, and the Kirby Sorter walkway.

Biscayne National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • Adams Key is open. Elliot Key remains closed.
  • Today, the park hosted 116 volunteers for National Public Lands Day. The group removed debris from park grounds and removed trash from mangroves.
  • Hosts of the television program, “Rock the Park,” participated in the cleanup. The episode will air sometime this fall.

Dry Tortugas National Park – OPEN

  • Dry Tortugas National Park is open to all park visitors. Some small closures exist throughout the park.
  • A structural engineer is being coordinated to assess the moat wall.
  • A local dive team will conduct damage assessments for natural and cultural resources including coral and shipwrecks this week.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY OPEN

  • The Homestead visitor entrance is open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, providing visitor access to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Clearing operations continue along the main road toward Flamingo. The road is open to Mahogany.
  • The park will close at night for safety and security purposes.
  • Saw crews continue clearing debris in the Mahogany Hammock, Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast areas.
  • Park boat operators continue marking underwater debris in the Gulf Coast District.
  • Park utilities crews are working on restoring water and sewage treatment plants including the lift station. Currently, restrooms and water are available only at the Coe Visitor Center.
  • All other areas of the park remain closed including Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 26

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
  • Electrical power has been restored to the Preserve Headquarters; rolling blackouts are expected as permanent fixes are established.
  • Preserve facilities have sustained extensive roof damage that has become more evident as heavy rains moved into the area over the last several days.
  • A mold assessment contractor has been hired to evaluate preserve facilities.
  • The paved section of the Loop Road (approximately 6 miles) is clear, but the unpaved portion of the Loop Road remains closed due to downed trees and clearing operations.

Biscayne National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Boca Chita Key is open. All other facilities remain closed including the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, Elliott Key, and Adams Key.
  • Park waters are open for navigation, although boaters are advised to use extreme caution. 
  • Saw crews completed work on Elliott Key, and continue to work removing damaged trees and clearing debris on Adams Keys.
  • Debris clearing continued at University Dock and Convoy Point.
  • Crews have removed damaged dry wall from the Discovery Center.
  • A crane is removing a displaced section of dock along with boardwalk pieces.

Dry Tortugas National Park – OPENED ON SEPTEMBER 25

  • Dry Tortugas National Park is open to recreation and camping in all areas except the following which have been temporarily closed:
    • Small sections of the moat wall walk around Fort Jefferson on Garden Key;
    • The area immediately around the wrecked sailboat on the northeast shore of Bush Key;
    • The dock at Loggerhead Key is closed to boat use and foot traffic due to missing deck boards;
    • The area immediately around the previously collapsed Boathouse; and
    • The park gift shop.
  • A Notice to Mariners is in effect for the navigation channels within the park due to missing or damaged aids to navigation.  Proceed with caution.
  • Users of mooring buoys within the park assume all risk.
  • Ferry operations from Key West are expected to resume Friday, September 29.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • The main park road will open to the public at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning providing access to popular park destinations including the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and Anhinga Trail in Royal Palm.
  • The park will begin reopening areas throughout the park in phases as appropriate.
  • Sawyer crews are continuing to clear the main park road south to Flamingo Bay, as well as, parking areas and boardwalks in the Mahogany Hammock, West Lake, and Shark Valley areas.
  • The park is developing a plan to bring in temporary structures to house the Gulf Coast Visitor Center operations and park offices.  
  • Dump trucks and heavy equipment continue to remove mud, salt, and debris from the Flamingo Bay area, and crews continue to clean the Flamingo Bay Visitor Center.
  • The Arborist Incident Response team continues to remove damaged limbs from trees near the Flamingo Bay Visitor Center. 
  • The removal process for derelict vessels has begun.

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25 UPDATE – DRY TORTUGAS REOPENS 

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
  • The boil water notice has been lifted within the Preserve.
  • Electrical power has been temporarily restored to the Preserve Headquarters. As the service transitions back to permanent service, the area should expect rolling blackouts.
  • Preserve facilities have sustained extensive roof damage that has become more evident as heavy rains moved into the area over the last several days.
  • The paved section of the Loop Road (approximately 6 miles) is clear, but the unpaved portion of the Loop Road remains closed due to clearing operations.

 Biscayne National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Boca Chita Key is open. All other facilities remain closed including the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, Elliott Key, and Adams Key.
  • Park waters are open for navigation, although boaters are advised to use extreme caution.
  • A saw crew is removing damaged trees and clearing debris on Elliott and Adams Keys.
  • Repairs are in progress at University Dock and Convoy Point.
  • A crane is removing a displaced section of dock along with boardwalk pieces.

Dry Tortugas National Park – OPENED ON SEPTEMBER 25

  • Dry Tortugas National Park is open to recreation and camping in all areas except the following which have been temporarily closed:
    • Small sections of the moat wall walk around Fort Jefferson on Garden Key;
    • The area immediately around the wrecked sailboat on the northeast shore of Bush Key;
    • The dock at Loggerhead Key is closed to boat use and foot traffic due to missing deck boards;
    • The area immediately around the previously collapsed Boathouse; and
    • The park gift shop.
  • A Notice to Mariners is in effect for the navigation channels within the park due to missing or damaged aids to navigation. Proceed with caution.
  • Users of mooring buoys within the park assume all risk.
  • Ferry operations from Key West will resume September 28.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed. Park waters are open, including use by commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.
  • Boaters are advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available. Internet and cell services have been restored.
  • Areas east of the L-67 Canal and south to Buzzards Roost/Grossman’s Ridge (commonly known as East Everglades) have opened for private airboating. Boaters should be advised that the only public launch site available is located east of Coopertown. The park cannot be accessed via SW 168th Street until power lines and other hazards have been addressed.
  • Multiple hazards exist throughout park waters.
  • Twenty-six housing units in the Flamingo Bay Area were mucked out yesterday. Power washing operations are now working in the Flamingo Bay Visitor Center.
  • Dump trucks are working in the Flamingo Bay area to remove mud, salt, and debris.
  • Sawyer crews and an Arborist Incident Response team are working on damaged and downed trees near the Flamingo Bay Visitor Center.
  • Sawyer crews are clearing roads in the Long Pine Key area and continuing to clear the main park road south to Flamingo Bay.
  • A plan is being developed to address derelict vessels.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 22 UPDATE – BOCA CHITA REOPENS TO VISITORS

Homestead, Fla. – Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park will reopen tomorrow, September 23, welcoming visitors for the first time since Hurricane Irma hit Florida 12 days ago.

All other Biscayne National Park facilities, including the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, and Elliott and Adams Keys, are closed to the public as the National Park Service clears debris and mitigates safety hazards. Park waters are open for navigation, although boaters are advised to use extreme caution due to marine debris and damage to navigational aids.  A marine notice has been posted to notify mariners of hazards in the waters surrounding the park.

The lighthouse on Boca Chita fared well during the hurricane, suffering a few broken windows but no significant damage. Additional facility assessments are ongoing.

Biscayne National Park employees have been working hard since the storm passed to prepare the island for re-opening. Park staff is supplemented with crews from a national response team.

The National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team currently has 344 laborers, saw teams, arborists, heavy equipment operators and other employees on the ground at Biscayne National Park in South Florida, along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean clearing debris and working to safely reopen parks damaged by Hurricane Irma. The Incident Management Team is now in its second week of operations and is composed of National Park Service employees from 95 national parks in 35 states.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 20

Homestead, Fla. – The National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team currently has 334 laborers, saw teams, arborists, heavy equipment operators and other employees on the ground throughout South Florida, along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean clearing debris and working to safely reopen parks damaged by Hurricane Irma. The Incident Management Team is now in its second week of operations and is composed of National Park Service employees from 95 parks outside the affected areas, in 35 states.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • Sawyers are working along Turner River Road and in the Bear Island camping area.
  • Except for the Loop Road Ranger Station, electrical power has not been restored. Generators are in use.
  • press release has been issued reminding the public about recreational closures.
  • Preserve staff continue to coordinate with local emergency operations.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • A marine notice has been posted to notify mariners of hazards in the waters surrounding the park. The U.S. Coast Guard found lots of debris in water between park and islands.
  • The assessment team found water in the Discovery Center; sheet rock has been removed to prevent mold.
  • Plans are being developed to support an underwater evaluation/assessment team.
  • Assessment teams are continuing to assess islands.
  • Problems with Elliott Key water treatment are still being addressed.
  • Repairs are being made to communications and network equipment.
  • Staff are continuing to remove debris.

Dry Tortugas National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park including all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key remain closed to the public.
  • Marine waters of the park to include Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor are open for access. A marine advisory is being issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters. Users of mooring buoys assume all risk.
  • Damage assessments continue.
  • Crews are on site today removing over 80 downed trees, and moving bricks and sand.
  • One small NPS vessel at Key West was damaged during the storm.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed while park waters are open for access, to include commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.
  • Boaters should be advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available there.
  • Park staff have identified numerous derelict vessels along the Gulf Coast and in Florida Bay. These vessels will be posted with the National Crime Information Center.
  • Saw crews are working in Shark Valley, Flamingo and Pine Island.
  • The assessment team is working at the Flamingo housing area.
  • All radio communications equipment is operational now except Lostman’s.
  • Air boat concessions will start operating as trails are assessed.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 19

Homestead, Fla. – The National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) currently has 311 laborers, saw teams, arborists, heavy equipment operators and other employees on the ground throughout South Florida and along the Atlantic coast clearing debris and working to safely reopen parks damaged by Hurricane Irma. The Incident Management Team is now in its second week of operations and is composed of National Park Service employees from 88 parks outside the affected areas, in 35 states.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • An Arborist Incident Response Team is working on downed trees along Turner River Road.
  • press release has been issued reminding the public about recreational closures.
  • The preserve remains under a “Boil Water” advisory.
  • Overflight to assess backcountry conditions and determine the extent of damage to backcountry campsites and trails is scheduled for today.
  • Preserve staff continue to coordinate with local emergency operations.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • A Marine Notice will be posted to notify mariners of hazards in the waters surrounding the park.
  • The assessment teams are continuing to assess islands.
  • Elliott Key water treatment is still not functioning.
  • Repairs are being made to communications and network equipment.
  • Staff are continuing to remove debris.

Dry Tortugas National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park including all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key remain closed to the public.
  • Marine waters of the park to include Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor are open for access. A marine advisory is being issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters. Users of mooring buoys assume all risk.
  • Damage assessments continue.
  • Saw crews will be on site today.
  • Employees are on site clearing debris.
  • One small NPS vessel at Key West was damaged during the storm.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed while park waters are open for access, to include commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.
  • Boaters should be advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available there.
  • Air boat concessions will start operating as trails are assessed.
  • At Gulf Coast, Flamingo, and Key Largo, staff are conducting boat operations to assess marine waters.
  • At Shark Valley and Pine Island, staff are continuing to remove debris.
  • Air Operations is assessing Florida Bay and the Northeast District.
  • Pine Island still has utilities out.
  • All employees have returned to work.
  • In the Gulf Coast area, clean-up efforts utilizing heavy equipment are continuing.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, MONDAY SEPTEMBER 18

Homestead, Fla. – The National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is now in its second week of operations, working in parks throughout South Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast, coordinating the bureau’s response to Hurricane Irma. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • Facility Management moved heavy equipment from Cooks Camp so it is available for use.
  • A press release will be issued reminding the public about recreational closures.
  • Restoration of power originally estimated on September 22, but could be delayed to October.
  • Preserve staff have cleared the paved section of the Loop Road (approximately six miles).
  • The gravel portion of Loop Road remains completely blocked.
  • Water testing has begun, but the preserve remains under a “Boil Water” advisory.
  • Damage assessments are continuing.
  • Overflight to assess backcountry conditions and determine the extent of damage to backcountry campsites and trails is scheduled for Tuesday, September 19.
  • Preserve staff continue to coordinate with local emergency operations.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • The assessment teams will continue to assess islands and the conditions of underwater resources.
  • The water treatment plant is down. Staff are overseeing water system repairs and addressing water treatment.
  • The Southeast Region Arborist Incident Response Team is working in the islands.
  • Staff are on site continuing debris removal.

Dry Tortugas National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park, to include all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key remain closed to the public. Users of mooring balls assume all risk.
  • Marine waters of the park to include Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor are open for access. NOTE: A marine advisory is being issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters of Dry Tortugas National Park. The park has not fully assessed its maritime infrastructure and has limited emergency response capabilities at this time. Extreme caution is advised.
  • Saw team will begin clearing trees and debris on Key West.
  • At Fort Jefferson, staff are clearing debris and conducting the buoy survey.
  • The gate at Fort Jefferson was damaged.
  • Damage assessments continue.

Everglades National Park – CLOSED

  • A Notice to Mariners has been posted regarding hazards in Florida Bay.
  • All employees will be returning to work on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
  • In the Gulf Coast area, clean-up efforts utilizing heavy equipment are continuing. Fuel has been delivered, and with the assistance of a generator, several employees are returning to park housing.
  • At Shark Valley, park signs on Highway 41 were destroyed. Trees are partially blocking the entrance gate, access road, and parking lot. Portions of the Tram Road are impassable due to down trees and high water. The Tower restrooms are blocked and port-a-johns are damaged. The entrance station has standing water and a storage shed was destroyed.
  • Efforts to clear the Flamingo road continue.
  • At Key Largo, there is extensive debris scattered throughout Florida Bay. Numerous vessels are grounded or have been pushed into mangroves, causing severe damage. Vessels were boarded to confirm no casualties. Facilities at north Nest Key, including the dock and port-a-johns, have been destroyed.
  • Monroe County remains under a “Boil Water” advisory.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17

Homestead, Fla. – National Park Service (NPS) teams of experts are working in parks throughout South Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast, coordinating the bureau’s response to Hurricane Irma, while keeping an eye on developing storms that may threaten national parks later this week. The NPS Eastern Incident Management Team is beginning its second week of operation. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. Currently, 88 national parks in 33 states are supporting the hurricane response. In all 305 NPS employees from outside the affected parks are assisting, more than doubling the resources assigned to the incident in the last 24 hours.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • Work continues to restore utilities: sewage tanks have been pumped out with generators, and portable toilets have been delivered to park headquarters. An electrician provided through the Eastern Incident Management Team is onsite to assist with generator hookups.
  • Lee County Electrical Cooperative (local utility) has begun working on downed power lines along Tamiami Trail.
  • Formal damage assessment of park housing units (including the Gulf Coast district of Everglades National Park) have been completed.
  • An overflight to assess backcountry conditions and determine the extent of damage to backcountry campsites and trails is scheduled for Tuesday, September 19.
  • Preserve staff continue to coordinate with local emergency operations.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • The water leak in the fire system has been repaired; the system has been recharged and is being tested.
  • The assessment teams have begun working on the islands.
  • The water treatment plant is down.
  • The Southeast Region Arborist Incident Response Team is clearing trees from the boardwalk and around the visitor center.
  • Staff are on site continuing debris removal.

Dry Tortugas National Park – CLOSED

  • Damage assessments continue, but communications with the site are limited.
  • A 40 feet section of the moat wall collapsed, with significant damage on additional 15 feet.
  • Numerous trees are down.

Everglades National Park – CLOSED

  • While the park remains closed, airboat concessions will begin operating and marine waters are open with a Notice to Mariners posted.
  • Park maritime waters are open for access, including to commercial permit holders, with a mariners advisory to exercise caution.
  • Monroe County has issued a Boil Water Notice.
  • In the Gulf Coast area, clean-up efforts utilizing heavy equipment are continuing. Fuel has been delivered, and with the assistance of a generator, two displaced employees are returning to housing in a shared capacity.
  • At Shark Valley, park signs on Highway 41 were destroyed. Trees are partially blocking the entrance gate, access road, and parking lot. Tram Road-west is impassable due to down trees and the last three miles of the southern end are under water. The Tower restrooms are blocked and port-a-johns are damaged. The Shark Valley visitor center is in good shape, but there is standing water in the entrance station, and a storage shed is destroyed.
  • Air operations to assess Florida Bay for hazards are grounded today, awaiting the arrival of a needed part for repairs; they should be operational by 4 p.m. on Monday.
  • The park entrance station will be staffed 24 hours a day, due to visitors attempting to enter the park.
  • Efforts to clear the Flamingo road continue.
  • At Key Largo, there is extensive debris scattered throughout Florida Bay. Numerous vessels are grounded or have been pushed into mangroves, causing severe damage. Vessels were boarded to confirm no casualties. Facilities at north Nest Key, including the dock and port-a-johns, have been destroyed.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 16

Homestead, Fla. – National Park Service (NPS) teams of experts are working in parks throughout South Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast, coordinating the bureau’s response to Hurricane Irma. The NPS Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is concluding its first week of operation. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. Currently, 119 NPS employees from outside the affected parks are assisting, with additional resources expected to be ordered in the coming days.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • Roofs were damaged at a maintenance building and a ranger station.
  • Several access roads are still inundated with water.
  • Water treatment plant is back online.
  • There are continued utility outages, including a “boil water” advisory.
  • Assessments are ongoing at visitor facilities and administrative areas.
  • Damage to back country campsites and trails is unknown.
  • Additional law enforcement and security is in place.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • A major leak the water main has developed in the last 24 hours.
  • Temporary restrooms are on site.
  • Staff are on site continuing debris removal.
  • Significant damage to park facilities, including headquarters and docks.
  • A few Stiltsville structures have been damaged.
  • Numerous trees are down.
  • The park remains closed to visitor access, though water transit is permitted.

Dry Tortugas National Park – CLOSED

  • A 40 feet section of the moat wall collapsed, with significant damage on additional 15 feet.
  • Numerous trees down.
  • The main dock, harbor light, water systems, housing, and communications systems are okay.

Everglades National Park – CLOSED

  • Gulf Coast area: continuing clean-up using heavy equipment.
  • Roads in East Everglades are impassible due to downed power lines.
  • Utilities are out at Shark Valley.
  • Royal Palm access road has been cleared; associated trails are blocked by downed trees.
  • Hidden Lake and Long Pine Key access roads are blocked.
  • Power restored to park headquarters, the Dan Beard Center and the Robertson Building.
  • Access has been opened to Missile Site.
  • Cultural and resource assessments continue.
  • Flamingo road access is being widened from one lane.
  • Crews are clearing the West Lake parking area.
  • Air Operations to assess Florida Bay for hazards has been delayed due to mechanical issues.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 15 AT 5:00 PM

Miami – The National Park Service Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is in its sixth day of operation, coordinating the bureau’s response to parks impacted by Hurricane Irma. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. So far, 119 National Park Service employees from outside the impacted areas are working in the parks or en route, with additional resources expected to be ordered in the coming days.

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • Assessments are ongoing.
  • There are continued utility outages.
  • A “boil water” advisory is in effect.
  • Fuel shortages are affecting recovery efforts.
  • Additional law enforcement and security is in place.

Biscayne National Park – CLOSED

  • The main park road has been cleared.
  • An aerial assessment found significant damage to park facilities, including headquarters.
  • A few Stiltsville structures have sustained minor damage.
  • Docks have been severely damaged. Working to get docks in shape to meet visitor needs.
  • Numerous trees are down.
  • An assessment by boat is underway at Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams keys.
  • The park remains closed to visitor access, though water transit is permitted.

Dry Tortugas National Park – CLOSED

  • Staff returned to the park today to begin assessments and to meet the National Park Service supply and work boat, Fort Jefferson, which returned from Belize where it sheltered from the storm.
  • Initial findings are that a significant breach of moat wall, but the dock is undamaged.
  • Radio communications are out due to problems with the radio mast.

Everglades National Park – CLOSED

  • Heavy equipment arrived at the Gulf Coast area this morning to continue clean-up efforts.
  • Damage assessment efforts continue in the Shark Valley Area, where the Visitor Center appears to have sustained only minor damage.
  • The Pine Island saw crew is clearing downed trees near the park entrance, and creating access the Missile Site and Royal Palm.
  • Assessments are underway for museum/curatorial areas of the Dan Beard Center.
  • Utilities have been partially restored to park headquarters.
  • One lane has been cleared from the main entrance to Flamingo and efforts will continue today to widen the road for heavy equipment.
  • The water/wastewater treatment plant in Flamingo is not operating.
  • Air Operations will assess Florida Bay potential stranded vessels.
  • Additional law enforcement and security staff are in place.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 14

Miami – The National Park Service Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is in its fifth day of operation, and is now operating in South Florida, coordinating the bureau’s response to parks impacted by Hurricane Irma. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. The team has relocated its response operation to South Florida, putting its response and recovery efforts in closer proximity to the affected parks. So far, 107 National Park Service employees from outside the impacted areas are working in the parks or en route, with additional resources expected to be ordered in the coming days.

Big Cypress National Preserve

  • A large scale survey is underway today. An assessment team is en route and will begin emergency stabilization work at the preserve as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Additional law enforcement and security is in place.

Biscayne National Park

  • The main park road was cleared yesterday and an aerial assessment found significant damage to park facilities, including headquarters.
  • A few Stiltsville structures have been damaged.
  • Docks have been severely damaged.
  • Numerous trees are down.
  • An assessment by boat is happening today at Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams keys.
  • The park remains closed to visitor access, though water transit is permitted..

Dry Tortugas National Park

  • Dry Tortugas was fully evacuated prior to the storm.
  • Staff is returning to the site tomorrow to begin assessments.
  • The National Park Service supply and work boat, Fort Jefferson, returns to Garden Key tomorrow from Belize, where it evacuated prior to the storm.
  • Remote transmission indicates there is power at Fort Jefferson.

Everglades National Park

  • Accounting for all park employees is still in progress; all but one employee has been accounted for. Power, internet, and all communications are still down.
  • Additional law enforcement and security staff are in place.
  • Crews are clearing the road to Flamingo today.
  • An overflight of the park on Wednesday determined the extent of fallen trees and downed vegetation throughout the park
  • Flamingo experienced a 3 – 5 foot storm surge.
  • The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Homestead appears to have sustained no flooding and the roof is intact.
  • The Gulf Coast Visitor Center roof is intact, but sustained water damage from the storm surge recorded at 8.78 feet. Employee housing and grounds in the vicinity likewise suffered water damage.
  • The main road to the park entrance and headquarters at Homestead is impassible due to fallen trees.
  • The Key Largo Ranger Station and employee housing sustained only minor damage
  • Status of employee housing at Pine Island and Flamingo is unknown.
  • An aerial image of Key West employee housing shows some visible damage.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UPDATE, TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 12

Atlanta – The National Park Service Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is in its third day of operation in Atlanta, coordinating the bureau’s response to parks impacted by Hurricane Irma. Resources are mobilizing and en route to affected parks to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. The team will relocate its response operation to Everglades National Park on Wednesday. Approximately 75 National Park Service employees from outside the impacted areas are working in the parks or en route, with additional resources expected in the coming days.

Employee accountability and care is the primary concern of the National Park Service, which continues to establish and maintain contact with park employees. Employees at all national parks have been accounted for, with the exception of Everglades National Park, where power and communication outages are making contact with some employees difficult.

Providing for the safety and support of all NPS employees working in the parks is the priority for the National Park Service response to the hurricane. Preliminary damage assessments and response to critical needs of the parks continue.

National park sites assisted by the team are widespread and include all of the national parks in South Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast.  All park’s listed below are currently closed to all visitor use and access unless otherwise noted. The public is reminded that parks are closed to all use, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, due to safety concerns during cleanup operations.  Parks will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

South Florida National Parks

Big Cypress National Preserve

  • Initial assessments will begin as soon as crews gain access to preserve areas.

Biscayne National Park

  • Entry into the park has been accomplished and the headquarters building has been accessed.
  • Initial assessment of structures and facilities has begun. There is minor damage to docks, and numerous trees are down. Arrangements are being made for an overflight to assess the impact of islands in the park, and the park will attempt to get a vessel in the water on Wednesday or Thursday to assist with inventory and assessments.
  • The park remains closed to visitor access, though water transit is permitted.

Dry Tortugas National Park

  • Dry Tortugas was fully evacuated prior to the storm and there are currently no employees at the park; all employees have been accounted for and are safe.
  • The first reports from Fort Jefferson are expected on Friday morning, when the National Park Service supply and work boat, Fort Jefferson, returns to Garden Key from Belize, where it evacuated prior to the storm.
  • Remote transmission indicates there is power at Fort Jefferson.
  • Flights to Fort Jefferson have been suspended stood down due to lack of flight following services and search & rescue assets in the Florida Keys being overwhelmed.

Everglades National Park

  • Priority is accounting for all park employees in the aftermath of the storm. Power and communication outages are making contact with many employees difficult.
  • Park staff have begun initial damage assessments, gathering information that will be used by the incident management team for formal assessments:
    • The Gulf Coast Visitor Center roof is intact, but sustained water damage from the storm surge. Employee housing and grounds in the vicinity likewise suffered water damage.
    • The main road to the park entrance and headquarters at Homestead is impassible due to fallen trees. No report yet on the adjacent Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center,
    • The Key Largo Ranger Station and employee housing sustained only minor damage
    • Status of employee housing at Pine Island and Flamingo is unknown.
    • Staff will visit Shark Valley this morning for initial assessment.
    • An aerial image of Key West employee housing shows some visible damage.
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