Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks Superintendent Dan Kimball reported today that both parks have sustained major damage and remain closed due to impacts of high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Wilma. Park staff are in the process of being contacted. So far, all park employees appear to be safe following the storm.
Due to its remote location, only sporadic contact has been made with Dry Tortugas staff. All staff appear to have weathered the storm safely. Impacts on Dry Tortugas appear to be significant and at least as much damage has been observed as was the case following Hurricane Charley last year.
Everglades National Park was also significantly affected and remains closed at this time. All park facilities are currently without power and telephone service. Trees are down in areas throughout the park, with many blocking access to roads, trails and boat channels. Numerous power line poles are down in the East Everglades and along State Road 9336 leading to the main park entrance.
High water affected much of the parks Gulf Coast and Flamingo areas. Flooding has added to problems already being addressed following Katrina. For example, all water and electrical systems are down at Flamingo and further damage has been sustained at the Lodge and campground. In some cases, earlier post-Katrina recovery efforts have been wiped away by the affects of Wilma. In addition, high winds caused structural and equipment damage at Flamingo, Gulf Coast and Shark Valley. The park does not encourage recreational boaters and fishermen to enter or traverse park waters in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Some storm effects include erosion of shore lines and shifting of bottom sands. Also downed trees and wind driven debris can create submerged hazards to navigation. Other navigational hazards include missing day boards and debris caused by the hurricane. Many channel markers are also missing. Repairs to all navigational aids will be made as soon as possible in order to guide safe boat transport through these waters. Boaters should be aware of these hazards and avoid recreational use of park waters.
A National Park Service Incident Management Team has been assigned to assist Park employees in managing restoration and recovery efforts. Efforts are underway to open both parks as soon as possible. When telephone service is restored, updated information on both parks may be obtained by calling 305/242-7700 and by checking the parks web sites at www.nps.gov/ever and www.nps.gov/drto.