Visitors began returning to the Florida Keys Tuesday after Keys officials lifted a precautionary visitor evacuation order that was initiated prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Fay.
The return of visitors came a day earlier than officials originally projected because the region’s infrastructure was in even better shape than anticipated.
“We’re eager to have visitors return,” said Monroe County Mayor Mario Di Gennaro, who also chairs the region’s tourist development council. “We asked visitors to leave because hurricane forecasters projected the possibility of a hurricane affecting the Keys and we care about their safety.”
“Thankfully, we did not get a hurricane,” he said.
Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon Airport opened Tuesday, said Monroe County Airports Manager Peter Horton. The first inbound flight, operated by Continental Connection, arrived at about noon.
Travelers to the Keys should verify their lodging reservations, but Keys chambers of commerce and tourism associations are reporting that most properties are resuming operations.
Some attractions, especially dive and fishing charters, may not be ready to serve customers until Wednesday or Thursday. It also will take a day or two for winds and seas to subside.
Assessment of the Keys’ infrastructure indicated Fay’s impact was minimal, with mostly trees, signs and awnings down. Utilities report their systems in good working order.
The Port of Key West reopened Tuesday as well. The first cruise ship back to Key West is scheduled to dock Thursday, according to Key West Port Director Raymond Archer.
State parks, including John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Fort Zachary Taylor, Long Key, Lignumvitae Key, Curry Hammock and Windley Key are open or partially open. Bahia Honda is to open Wednesday.
All hospitals, law enforcement and emergency services are operational.
More information on the Keys is available at www.fla-keys.com.