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Florida Keys

Survey teams this week completed an assessment of the condition of the Keys reef tract, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.

"It's very much like what's observable on land," said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the 2,900-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "In some places, the impacts are pretty dramatic and visible and in other places they are much less. So we're finding the same is true underwater."

Even in the same location, the hurricane's impacts differ.

The endangered Key deer herd was already coming out of a tough year — the herd lost more than 100 animals to New World screwworm.

So when the eye of Hurricane Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 storm, wildlife managers were worried. The Lower Keys is also the only place on the planet where Key deer live.

But recently completed population surveys came up with good news, said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys, including Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

In some parts of the Keys, people are still salvaging what they can of their belongings, or figuring out where they will live.

In Key West, local and state leaders gathered Wednesday to send one message: they are open for business.

"Restaurants are open. Hotels are open. Every tourist in the country, in the world, needs to come back to Key West and the Florida Keys," said Gov. Rick Scott.

He spoke at an oceanfront hotel flanked by Key West officials and tourism promoters who were carrying conch shells and waving Conch Republic flags.

Almost 20 years ago, a little radio station from the Lower Keys won an Edward R. Murrow award — one of the highest honors in broadcasting. WWUS was recognized for continuously broadcasting during and after Hurricane Georges, a Category 2 storm that pummeled the Lower Keys.

But it turns out that effort was just a warm-up act for Hurricane Irma.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state — and particularly the Keys — faces “a long road” to recovery from Hurricane Irma.

Speaking to reporters at a Coast Guard air station after surveying damage from the air, Scott said damage to Southwest Florida was “not as bad as we thought the storm surge would do” but damage to the Keys was “devastating.”

In the Keys north of Key West, Scott said, “I don’t think I saw one trailer park that almost everything wasn’t overturned.”

He also said there is widespread loss of electricity, water and sewer service there.

Every year in the late summer, the dive and tourism industries in the Florida Keys encourage people to come to the island chain and watch the reproductive act first-hand — on the reef.

While mainland South Florida ramps up its battle against the mosquito that can carry Zika, the Florida Keys has already begun the region's most intensive mosquito control operation.

A mass bleaching of coral reefs worldwide is finally easing after three years, U.S. scientists announced Monday.

About three-quarters of the world's delicate coral reefs were damaged or killed by hot water in what scientists say was the largest coral catastrophe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a global bleaching event in May 2014. It was worse than previous global bleaching events in 1998 and 2010.

Wildlife Officials: Screwworm Infestation Declining In Keys

Mar 7, 2017

Wildlife officials say a screwworm infestation in the Florida Keys seems to be declining, which is good news for a unique deer herd threatened by the flesh-eating parasites.


Florida Keys officials have approved a framework for county roads that need to be adapted to rising sea levels.

Most voters in the Florida Keys said in a Nov. 8 referendum that they were in favor of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the Keys.

An argument that has been taking place in Mosquito Control board meetings, hotel conference rooms and Facebook comment strings finally moved to the ballot box on Tuesday.

With most of the vote in (32 of 33 precincts) the GMO mosquito question had split results.

An agricultural emergency has been declared in the Florida Keys over a fly larvae infestation threatening endangered deer found that are found exclusively in the island chain.


Florida Keys officials have delayed a referendum on releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the population of a disease-carrying species.

With the Monroe County mayor looking on, a Senate panel Tuesday approved the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.

The measure would pump $20 million into environmental projects in an area known as the home of the only tropical reefs in the continental United States.

  In July 2014, Ellen Engelson's leg broke spontaneously, weakened from radiation treatments years before.

She lives in Key West,  so she went to the emergency room at the only hospital within 50 miles. But because her leg needed specialized care, she had to get to a hospital on the mainland.

Getting to a trauma center quickly can be critical, and in the Florida Keys, there are no trauma centers.

That leaves you the option of being airlifted out.   And that can cost you nothing -- or tens of thousands of dollars. 

But Monroe County is trying to make sure patients have the chance to choose that first financial option. 

The lead scientist on a study that surveyed the health of Caribbean coral reefs over 50 years says climate change is not the most severe threat facing coral reefs.

The Florida Keys reef is among the unhealthiest reefs in the Caribbean, said Jeremy Jackson, who grew up in South Florida and first visited the Keys in the late 1940s.

Without the aid of an air tank and without fins on his feet, Nicholas Mevoli dove more than 220 feet beneath the surface off the Bahamas on Sunday.

VIDEO: Florida Keys Prepare for Sea Level Rise

Jul 2, 2013
Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

Hurricane storm surge can inundate the narrow, low-lying Florida Keys, but that is far from the only water worry for officials.

A tidal gauge operating since before the Civil War has documented a sea level rise of 9 inches in the last century, and officials expect that to double over the next 50 years. So when building a new Stock Island fire station, county authorities went ahead added a foot and a half over federal flood planning directives that the ground floor be built up 9 feet.

Seasonal tidal flooding that was once a rare inconvenience is now so predictable that some businesses at the end of Key West's famed Duval Street stock sandbags just inside their front doors, ready anytime.