September 12, 2017 - There were no passengers and no lines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday as workers prepared to reopen for travelers at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
But the uncanny lull won’t last.
It’s time for South Florida to get moving again. Thousands of South Floridians who fled Hurricane Irma are trying to return to assess the damage to their homes. Passengers from several cruise ships, whose return to local seaports were delayed, will be converging on the airport to try to make connecting flights home. And thousands of car and truck owners who spent hours in lines outside gas stations are anxious for the fuel to start flowing in larger volumes than before the storm.
“It’s going to be challenging to get out if you don’t already have a seat booked,” said Greg Meyer, a spokesman for the airport.
At Miami International Airport, flights will also resume gradually on Tuesday. Palm Beach International Airport reopened on Monday afternoon.
Port Everglades will reopen for business on Tuesday, officials said. In good news for drivers, three of the petroleum companies operating at the Broward County port resumed operations on Monday and some trucks were starting to make gasoline deliveries to anxious retailers in the region.
According to estimates by several petroleum companies at Port Everglades, the port has reserves of a four-day supply of gasoline, five days of diesel fuel, and five days of jet fuel.
Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county has plenty of fuel. Still, drivers are being asked to conserve gas as the process of restocking gas stations and turning on power throughout South Florida begins.
Fuel ships that have been waiting to make deliveries to the port’s 12 petroleum terminals will be allowed to enter the port in the next couple of days, said spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy.
PortMiami is scheduled to open Tuesday.
The Port of Palm Beach will re-open – for cargo business only – at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, officials said. It remains closed to vessel traffic, on the orders of the U.S. Coast Guard, according to its Twitter feed.
Back at the Fort Lauderdale airport, spokesman Greg Meyer urged travelers to be patient.
The airport was closed for three days after the last flight departed on Friday evening, he said. Under normal circumstances, 600 to 700 flights take off and land each day – meaning there is a backlog of at least 1,800 to 2,100 flights.
The airport escaped with no serious damage, but it still takes a lot of work to put it all back together, Meyer said. An enormous pond of rainwater gathered beside the north runway and will have to drain naturally – but it won’t disrupt flights.
Other storm-generated problems included minor leaking in the terminals, fallen trees and branches and damage to employees’ cars, he said. Because officials had expected major damage, they had stored and strapped down equipment, including 64 jet bridges – all of which had to be returned to their normal locations on Monday.
Military aircraft carrying supplies and people to help victims of the hurricane in the Florida Keys started landing on Monday afternoon. Airlines began sending so-called “ferry flights” – planes with limited crew and no passengers – back to the airport on Monday in preparation for when the first flights take off Tuesday.
Some people who abandoned their cars in the cell phone parking lot and double-parked in restricted areas of the airport will be facing towing bills when they return.
Airport officials said they understand some people panicked and left their cars in a rush as they fled but the vehicles had to be towed for safety reasons.
Source: The Sun-Sentinel