The wrath of Hurricane Irma played out in full measure over Florida on Sunday, and the new week brought damage assessments and estimates of when vital services can resume again.
Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday as it exited Florida, forced the state’s six biggest airports to close and blacked out 65 percent of the state’s electricity customers.
The airports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Myers were all shut down by the storm, and each underwent a damage assessment on Monday. Fort Lauderdale International Airport was expected to resume services Tuesday, and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers reported that it will open as soon as commercial power is restored.
Tampa International Airport reported minimal damage from the storm, but Miami International Airport endured gusts of wind of nearly 100 mph and sustained “significant water damage.”
Cayman Airways flights to and from Miami and Tampa, as well as Havana, Cuba, were canceled Monday.
JetBlue reported Monday that it had canceled approximately 900 flights, and hoped to resume some flights Tuesday and all of its Florida schedule by the end of the week.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management reported Monday that 6.5 million business and home accounts have had electricity outages. That’s 65 percent of the total electric accounts in the state of Florida, and 72 percent of Florida Power and Light’s customers are in the dark. FPL, which provides service to 4.9 million families and businesses in Florida, said that more than 18,000 workers have been enlisted in the effort to restore electricity.
The Port of Miami and Port Everglades both announced Monday afternoon that they will reopen on Tuesday, and Port Tampa Bay also expects to be open for business on Tuesday. Fuel stored at Port Tampa Bay has already been loaded on tanker trucks for delivery all over the region.
Cayman escaped the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma, but there was a question of whether its normal port operations would be affected by damage to some of its sister facilities in Florida.
Joseph Woods, the Port Authority cruise and security manager, said last week that one cruise ship canceled its Monday arrival in George Town.
“All offices and the Cargo Distribution Centre are open and working as normal,” he said late last week.
Thom Guyton, the general manager of Kirk Market, said that even if the Port of Miami remained closed for a while, supplies could be routed to Cayman from about seven or eight different alternatives.
“It depends on what shape they’re in,” said Mr. Guyton. “But if they tell us [they are shut], we will operate out of Tampa, even for the next three months, and we will just shift our operations a little.”
Foster’s Food Fair Ltd. sent out a news release Monday that indicated a shipment is due on Tuesday.
“Looking forward, we are still in conversation with both air and sea shipping carriers regarding the extent of damage Miami has endured from Hurricane Irma,” said the press release from Foster’s regarding future shipments. “Overall, the damage appears to be minimal, however, there is still no electricity and damage assessments are still being carried out. Once the ships come in tomorrow (Tuesday 12th) we should be in good shape to get us to the next boat, which hopefully will be this coming weekend.”
Humanitarian mission from Cayman
Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Monday that the government will be sending a humanitarian mission on board a Cayman Airways 737-300 to Anguilla Tuesday to deliver medical supplies, water, food and toiletries. Members of the Health Services Authority, Health City, Hazard Management and the Department of Environmental Health will be part of the relief mission.
“Most of us know too well the devastation and despair that arises in the wake of a hurricane, especially those of us who lived through our own catastrophic storms of Ivan in 2004 and Paloma in 2008,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We know well it was our neighbors from the region and our families and friends who ensured that we got much-needed supplies. It is time for us to pay it forward. Frankly, Irma could have taken a path to Cayman and who knows, in the peak of hurricane season, where the next storm is going to strike?”
CUC to help Turks and Caicos
Caribbean Utilities Company reported Monday that it has sent a seven-member team from its Transmission and Distribution Operations department to assist FortisTCI in restoring service to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The CUC employees are expected to help out there for three weeks. The utility company made a similar effort in 2008 after Hurricane Ike.
C&W Communications, the parent company of internet and television provider FLOW, said Friday that it had service interruptions on Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago due to damage to underwater cables which run between St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands.
Garfield Sinclair, Caribbean president of C&W Communications, said the company is basing its recovery operations in Antigua and hoping for no further outages in Anguilla, Montserrat and the BVI.
“Many of our own colleagues have experienced significant personal loss,” Mr. Sinclair said. “Along with significant damage to their homes and properties, we are still in the process of assessing the damage to our networks and facilities across the markets.
“Despite these extremely debilitating circumstances, however, there have also been incredibly inspiring examples of a steely resolve to rebuild lives and communities in the shortest possible time.”
Cayman Compass reporter Tad Stoner contributed to this report.