There’s little doubt that Florida is the number one winter destination for North American baby boomers. In fact, for many boomers, it’s a second home, a yearly haven from the cold north winds. But as we’ve all heard, Florida was hit with some nasty weather this fall, as Hurricane Irma swept through the state. So if you’re a northern snowbird, you may be wondering what you’ll find if you visit the Sunshine State in a month or two. Happily, the news is good: yes, it’s safe to go to Florida this winter.
At a media reception in Toronto this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott (left) announced that Florida’s sun spots are open for business as usual. In fact, he said, the damage was less severe than many had feared, and almost all the major destinations are back to normal, or close to it.
That includes Miami, which made the news in September as photos of flooded downtown streets flashed across the world. Now, said Scott, it’s hard to tell anything happened. In fact, flooding is nothing new in Miami; rising sea levels have been causing problems there for a few years, and the city has seen many storms in its history. The same goes for Fort Lauderdale and the cities farther up the coast.
Most hurricanes sweep up Florida’s east coast, but Hurricane Irma veered west and came up the middle of the state, hitting Naples and giving Tampa a glancing blow. However, the storm had begun to weaken once it hit land. Naples experienced flooding and lost many trees, but is recovering. Tampa, meanwhile, suffered some wind damage and power outages, but came through the storm intact. The hotels are open, and baseball spring training will go on as usual.
Oddly, one area that did take a significant hit was Jacksonville, in northeastern Florida. The hurricane caused the St. Johns River to swell, resulting in severe flooding. Repairs are under way, but a full recovery will likely take months.
As you’ve likely heard, the worst-hit area was the Florida Keys. However, word is that Key West, the biggest tourist spot on the island chain, received a storm surge of only about three feet, less than expected. It was back in business within days, and its attractions are open, including the Hemingway Home. In fact, the “Margaritaville” city held its annual Fantasy Fest as usual this past weekend.
The rest of the Keys weren’t so lucky, however. Some suffered serious flooding and wind damage, and some resorts on the island chain are still out of commission. The cleanup is ongoing.
So, is it safe to go to Florida this winter? The answer is yes. And the state has launched a major public relations campaign to let northern snowbirds and holiday travellers know that they’re welcome back to the state this winter. To sweeten the deal for Canadians, it’s launched a program that offers discounts of up to 25 percent on hotels, car rentals, Air Canada flights and vacations, and local attractions. So, if you’re missing the sunshine already …