NPS Incident Management Team Hurricane Irma Update, Monday, September 18, 2017 – 2 pm

crew members clearing downed trees from a park roadway
Clearing the road to Royal Palm at Everglades National Park

NPS photo

News Release Date: September 18, 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. – The National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team (Team) is now in its second week of operations, working in parks throughout South Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast, coordinating the bureau’s response to Hurricane Irma. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. 
All national parks in the Caribbean are closed in preparation for Hurricane Maria. Assessments and recovery efforts in national parks in the Caribbean have been put on hold until Hurricane Maria passes. Currently, 305 NPS employees from outside the affected parks are assisting, representing 88 parks in 35 states.
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 Hurricane Maria approaches the 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 18:

Caribbean National Parks


All national parks in the Caribbean are closed in preparation for Hurricane Maria.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument - CLOSED

  • Assessments and recovery efforts will resume once Hurricane Maria has passed.

Virgin Islands National Park - CLOSED

  • National Park Service has afforded employees and their families the opportunity to move off island in advance of Hurricane Maria, currently forecast to pass over the U.S. Virgin Islands late Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • Assessments and recovery efforts will resume once Hurricane Maria has passed.

South Florida National Parks


Big Cypress National Preserve - CLOSED

  • Facility Management moved heavy equipment from Cooks Camp so it is available for use.

  • A press release will be issued reminding the public about recreational closures.

  • Restoration of power originally estimated on September 22, but could be delayed to October.

  • Preserve staff have cleared the paved section of the Loop Road (approximately six miles).

  • The gravel portion of Loop Road remains completely blocked.

  • Water testing has begun, but the preserve remains under a “Boil Water” advisory.

  • Damage assessments are continuing.

  • 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 assessment teams will continue to assess islands and the conditions of underwater resources.

  • The water treatment plant is down. Staff are overseeing water system repairs and addressing water treatment.

  • The Southeast Region Arborist Incident Response Team is working in the islands. 

  • Staff are on site continuing debris removal.

De Soto National Memorial - CLOSED

  • Power, phones, and water have been restored

  • Staff are continuing to remove debris.

  • In addition to downed trees, docks have washed up on the park’s north shore will need to be removed.

  • Damage assessments are underway.

  • Florida Forest Service County Forester will be assessing the park’s notable Gumbo Limbo trees. 

Dry Tortugas National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park, to include all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key remain closed to the public. Users of mooring balls assume all risk.

  • Marine waters of the park to include Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor are open for access. NOTE: A marine advisory is being issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters of Dry Tortugas National Park. The park has not fully assessed its maritime infrastructure and has limited emergency response capabilities at this time. Extreme caution is advised.

  • Saw team will begin clearing trees and debris on Key West.

  • At Fort Jefferson, staff are clearing debris and conducting the buoy survey.

  • The gate at Fort Jefferson was damaged.

  • Damage assessments continue.

Everglades National Park – CLOSED

  • A Notice to Mariners has been posted regarding hazards in Florida Bay.

  • All employees will be returning to work on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

  • In the Gulf Coast area, clean-up efforts utilizing heavy equipment are continuing. Fuel has been delivered, and with the assistance of a generator, several employees are returning to park housing.

  • At Shark Valley, park signs on Highway 41 were destroyed. Trees are partially blocking the entrance gate, access road, and parking lot. Portions of the Tram Road are impassable due to down trees and high water. The Tower restrooms are blocked and port-a-johns are damaged. The entrance station has standing water and a storage shed was destroyed.

  • 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.

  • Monroe County remains under a “Boil Water” advisory.

Atlantic Coast National Parks


Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Fla.)

  • The grounds and fort are now open

  • Debris clean up continues.

  • Downed trees remain on site.

  • An assessment team is on site surveying damage.

  • An archeological assessment has been completed.

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.) - CLOSED

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

  • Saw crews and Arborist Incident Response crews are working on site.

  • The assessment teams continue their work on the island.

  • Assessing roofs and docks.

  • Debris cleanup and removal continues island-wide. 

  • Putting up closed signs on island.

Fort Frederica National Monument (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • The main and back entrances have been cleared.

  • Power has been restored throughout the park.

  • An Arborist Incident Response team and saw team are continuing to clear hazardous trees near the visitor center and on the back road.

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Fla.) - CLOSED

  • Full access to the historic fort will be dependent on extensive repairs to both NPS owned passenger ferries and repair of the park Visitor Center ferry dock.

  • An archeological assessment has been completed.

  • An assessment team is on site.

  • Hope to have FOMA open in a couple days on limited basis. 

  • Cleaning of the grounds continues.

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • The bridge at the demilune is back in place and needs some minor adjustment. 

  • A temporary sally port bridge will be constructed to provide access to the fort to start cleanup and repair the roof. 

  • The original sally port bridge will be inspected today and plans are underway to retrieve it from the marsh. 

  • The well water will be tested today.

  • The Visitor Center well was tested and will be treated today

  • Park trails were inspected and numerous trees are down. A saw team is needed.

Fort Sumter National Monument (S.C.)

  • Removal of debris and mud at Fort Sumter continues.
  • Fort Sumter itself remains closed, all other sites are open.

  • Staff is working to get electricity restored to the dock, repair damaged dock railings, and repair septic at the fort.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Fla.)

  • Fort Caroline visitor center and Cedar Point boat launch are open.
  • Cedar Point trail system remains closed until downfall cleared.

  • Staff and volunteer cleanup crews have cleared the Fort Caroline Visitor Center area and trails of debris.

  • Kingsley Plantation district remains closed and cleanup efforts are continued.

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 19, 2017

Experience More