Irma winds down as recovery efforts ramp up

Cayman flights to Florida, Cuba resume

Hurricane Irma petered out and dropped off the National Hurricane Center’s advisory list Tuesday afternoon, but the cleanup from the massive storm will likely take weeks or months.

Irma, which was listed as a post-tropical cyclone in the NHC’s final advisory Tuesday morning, worked its way through the Caribbean before hitting Florida as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday. In its final stages, the storm brought moderate to locally heavy rains to several southeastern U.S. cities on Tuesday.

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Airports reopen

Florida’s major airports – Miami International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Tampa International and Orlando International – all resumed service Tuesday. Miami International said on its Twitter account that it can handle roughly 30 percent of its normal traffic. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood advised that “approximately half of today’s flights have been cancelled.”

Cayman Airways announced Tuesday morning that it is able to resume all of its scheduled flights to and from Miami and Tampa, and it said larger airplanes will be used for the Miami flights to accommodate additional passengers affected by the storm. Cayman Airways was also able to resume travel to Jamaica’s Norman Manley International Airport after a brief cessation of services.

Port operations open

Three of the four largest ports in Florida – Tampa Bay, the Everglades and Miami – also reopened to commercial operations on Tuesday. The port in Jacksonville has opened its terminals and gates but is awaiting approval from the Coast Guard to open for business.

Ships are permitted to operate only in daylight at Port Everglades, and PortMiami advised that it is closed to marine traffic until further notice. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is conducting an analysis of the port’s navigational channels before it can fully reopen.

Flooding persists

The hurricane center warned that significant river flooding will persist in Florida, and it added that additional flooding could also take place in Georgia and eastern Alabama. But even with that warning, Florida made strides toward returning to business as usual in the wake of the storm.

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The NHC estimated that several Florida cities and towns were inundated by more than 10 inches of rain, and six were hit by peak winds of more than 100 mph. Naples, which was in the eye of the storm, was soaked by 11.87 inches of rain and buffeted by peak winds of 142 mph.

A curfew has been lifted for residents of Miami-Dade County. Governor Rick Scott said on Twitter Tuesday that 90,000 Floridians had sought refuge at the state’s 300-plus shelters.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management estimated midday Tuesday that 52 percent of the state’s electricity consumers are without service. The Florida Highway Patrol has all 1,700 of its troops mobilized in 12-hour shifts working in support of emergency response, and Governor Scott said that 600 utility trucks have received a police escort into afffected areas so they can begin their repair work.

Tolls have been suspended across the state highway system to aid an aggressive recovery effort and to ease the passage of millions of Florida citizens back to their homes.

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