NPS Incident Management Team Hurricane Irma Update, Sunday, September 17, 2017 -- 4 pm

Side-by-side photos showing trees laying along a board walk in one and the cleared boardwalk in the other
Clearing downed trees and debris from trails at Biscayne National Park

NPS photo

News Release Date: September 17, 2017

Contact: Mike Litterst, 202-306-4166

Contact: Brent Everitt, 850-393-7952

Contact: Katie Lawhon, 717-253-5776

Incident information
Photos of Hurricane Irma damage and response
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. 
The safety and support of all NPS employees working in the parks is the priority for the NPS response. As cleanup from Hurricane Irma continues, preparations are underway to relocate NPS employees and their families from St. John to Puerto Rico as Tropical Storm Maria is forecast to become a hurricane as it tracks along a path toward U.S. Virgin Islands. 
Information from damage assessments and updates on the recovery efforts is listed below. The public is reminded that many parks are closed to all use, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, due to safety concerns during cleanup operations.
News from the field - September 17:

Caribbean National Parks


Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument - CLOSED

  • Initial assessments will be completed when personnel arrive.

Virgin Islands National Park - CLOSED 

  • Operations are focused on keeping roads cleared and open, and assessing damages to infrastructure.

  • National Park Service employees and their families are being relocated in advance of Tropical Storm Maria, which is currently forecast to pass over the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 3 hurricane later this week.

Buck Island Reef National Monument

  • Pending any new impacts from Tropical Storm Maria, island-wide assessments will begin soon to review damage to park facilities, natural and cultural resources. 

  • Commercial tour operations have resumed.

South Florida National Parks 


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.

De Soto National Memorial - CLOSED

  • Power, phones, and water have been restored

  • Staff are on site continuing debris removal.

  • In addition to downed trees, removal of docks that have washed up on the park’s north shore will require effort.

  • Damage assessment teams are scheduled to arrive Monday to begin formal survey of the park.

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.

Atlantic Coast National Parks 


Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Fla.)

  • The grounds and fort are now open, but there are no restrooms available. 

  • Debris clean up continues. Downed trees remain on site.

  • An assessment team is expected on Monday to begin formal survey of damage.

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • The Coast Guard has taken the lead on cleaning up the St. Marys waterfront.

  • Saw crews are clearing the main road and an Arborist Incident Response Team is working on the cultural landscapes.

  • The assessment team is on the island and working their way north.

  • Sheds and a historic structure on the south end of the island were damaged.

  • Power has been restored to the island.

  • It is hoped that internet and phones will be restored on the mainland on Sunday.

  • Some roads on the island are passable but still need a lot of work to make them usable. 

  • Debris cleanup and removal continues island-wide.  

Fort Frederica National Monument (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • An assessment of the hazardous trees near the visitor center and on the back road is being conducted.

  • An Arborist Incident Response Team and saw team are continuing to clear the main park road.  

  • Power is still out; Georgia Power working to get it restored.

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Fla.) - CLOSED

  • There is extensive damage to the dock. 

  • Cleaning of the grounds continues.

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • U.S. Representative Buddy Carter of Georgia’s First District visited the park for approximately 30 minutes on Saturday. The congressman and an aide were briefed by Superintendent Melissa Memory and Chief of Interpretation Joel Cadoff about the impacts of the storm and visited the grounds outside the fort.

Fort Sumter National Monument (S.C.)

  • Removal of debris at Fort Sumter continues.

  • Fort Sumter is closed until further notice, but Fort Moultrie and Liberty Square facilities are open.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Fla.) - CLOSED

  • Power, phones and internet have been restored to the Fort Caroline Visitor Center and park headquarters.

  • Staff and volunteer cleanup crews have cleared the Fort Caroline Visitor Center area and trails of debris. The visitor center will reopen on Monday.

  • Cedar Point boat launch is open to public. Cedar Point trail system remains closed until fallen trees and debris are cleared.

  • Kingsley Plantation district remains closed and cleanup efforts are shifting to the main house and lodge/visitor center grounds.

Additional closures exist throughout the Southeast Region, but local park employees are handling cleanup efforts. A full list of affect parks and updates on the status of these parks can be found at


Last updated: September 17, 2017

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