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National Park Service Assessing Hurricane Irma Damage To Parks In Florida, Caribbean


Storm damage assessments were getting under way at Virgin Islands National Park/NPS, Kristine Brunsman

National Park Service storm response personnel Tuesday were either working on cleanup or en route to parks to begin assessing damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma. All employees in affected parks, except for Everglades National Park, were accounted for and safe, the agency said.

At Everglades, which received more than a foot of rain along with destructive winds from the hurricane, "power and communication outages" were making it difficult to account for all personnel.

"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," a Park Service release sent Tuesday evening said. "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."

While initial assessments were still being made in many parks, Virgin Islands National Park was presumed to have been hardest hit by the storm out of all National Park Service units in the region. Some staff at the park reportedly lost everything to the storm.

As no personnel were left behind at Dry Tortugas National Park, Park Service officials had no idea what damage Hurricane Irma might have inflicted there.

"Park staff evacuated Dry Tortugas prior to the storm; all are accounted for and safe. No one has been out to Fort Jefferson since the storm and flights are grounded due to lack of flight following services and search and rescue assets in the Florida Keys being overwhelmed. Remote transmission indicates there is power at the site," spokesman Michael Litterest told the Traveler in an email earlier Tuesday. "The park’s supply and work boat, Fort Jefferson, evacuated to Belize in advance of the storm. It will make the return trip starting at noon on Wednesday, arriving at Garden Key approximately 6 a.m. on Friday. That's when we'll get our first idea of any damage to the site."

The following status update was provided Tuesday by the Park Service:

Caribbean National Parks

Christiansted National Historic Site

Cleanup of minor hurricane debris has begun. Additional assessments will be completed when personnel arrive.

San Juan National Historic Site

The park sustained minor damage and has reopened.

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve

Initial assessments will be completed when personnel arrive.

Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument

Initial assessments will be completed when personnel arrive.

Virgin Islands National Park

The park has experienced significant damage. Formal assessments will begin as soon as crews arrive.

Buck Island Reef National Monument

Initial assessments will be completed when personnel arrive.

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.

De Soto National Memorial

No damage to park buildings has been identified; some facilities including trails and fences have been damaged.

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:

o 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.

o 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.

o The Key Largo Ranger Station and employee housing sustained only minor damage.

o Status of employee housing at Pine Island and Flamingo is unknown.

o Staff will visit Shark Valley this morning for initial assessment.

o An aerial image of Key West employee housing shows some visible damage.

Atlantic Coast National Parks

Andersonville National Historic Site (Ga.)

All employees are accounted for.

Canaveral National Seashore (Fla.)

Some docks in the park have suffered minor damage.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Area experienced significant flooding. Initial assessments of park facilities have been complete, but more extensive assessments will be completed as soon as possible. Several trees have fallen in the park.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site (S.C.)

Damage assessments have begun.

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.)

Initial assessments have begun and some damage has been identified; additional assessments will need to be completed.

Fort Frederica National Monument (Ga.)

Park has significant cleanup efforts to be completed. Facility and resources assessments will be completed as soon as possible.

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Fla.)

Damage has been observed at facilities including, the ferry dock and boardwalks at on the landside of the park. Additional facility and resource assessments will be completed when access is established.

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Ga.)

The park received near record level flooding. Assessment crews will conduct a full damage assessment as soon as Georgia DOT completes their assessments of the Hwy. 80 and Bull River bridges.

Fort Sumter National Monument (S.C.)

The park experienced near record level flooding; there is currently four feet of standing water within Fort Sumter. There is standing water inside Fort Moultrie as well. Full damage assessments will be completed as soon as possible.

Moore’s Creek National Battlefield (S.C.)

Park visitor center is closed, though grounds are open.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Fla.)

Damage assessments will begin on Wednesday.

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