Matt and Britney Weidert

Matt Weidert

UPDATE 6: Dry Tortugas Re-opens to Visitors After Hurricane Ian

On Tuesday evening, September 27th, major Hurricane Ian made it's first US landfall, marking a direct hit to the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.

The storm had been strengthening steadily after crossing western Cuba, with sustained winds of 120 mph as the eyewall passed directly over Garden Key and Loggerhead Key. Heavy rains and storm surge also directly affected all areas of the 100 square mile park.

Current status of Dry Tortugas Hurricane Ian storm damage assessment and re-opening

On Thursday, September 29th, National Park Service (NPS) staff began to assess storm damage with a flyover of the the main Dry Tortugas attractions, including Garden Key. It was noted that there was significant damage to the ferry docks and visitor boat slips at Fort Jefferson..

The NPS deployed the M/V Fort Jefferson on Friday, September 30th, with a team to further assess damage and commence clean up efforts.

Dry Tortugas National Park Re-opening Updates

  • Ferry service resumes on Monday, October 10th, as announced by the NPS
  • Limited camping spaces are now available
  • Park waters are currently open to private vessels, but the boat slips remain closed
  • As of Sunday, October 2nd, sea plane tours have resumed for visitors
  • The interior of Fort Jefferson is now open to visitors
  • If you plan to visit park waters by private vessel, keep in mind that many buoys and boundary markers might have been damaged by Hurricane Ian - they have not yet been inspected

With a direct hit from the eyewall of Hurricane Ian, the NPS will make sure that key park features such as Fort Jefferson are deemed safe again for visitors before the Dry Tortugas National Park completely reopens.

Subscribe to the Yacht Warriors for updates on storm damage and Dry Tortugas re-opening dates.

Hurricane Ian Dry Tortugas before and after photos

Thanks to a tip from a Yacht Warriors follower, we can begin to identify some of the damage that may have occurred to the Dry Tortugas from Hurricane Ian. NOAA released some imagery taken several days after Hurricane Ian passed.

I compared some of the before and after imagery. Check it out below. My overall assessment? It doesn't look like there was any major structural damage visible from satellite photos. Shifting of sand, damage to docks, and vegetation damage look like the biggest culprits.

Of course, a birds eye view is nothing compared to what the NPS will learn in the coming days with their crew on the ground.

History of Dry Tortugas and hurricanes

This is by no means the first hurricane to affect the park since construction of Fort Jefferson commenced on Garden Key in 1846.

Most recently in 2017, Hurricane Irma damaged a ~50 foot section of the moat wall and deposited large amounts of sand within the moat and piers. It's worth noting that Hurricane Irma was not a direct hit - it passed ~90 miles to the east, at Cudjoe Key.
Damage to the moat wall from Hurricane Irma in 2017 | Source: NPS

Hurricane Ian continued to strengthen to a very dangerous category 4 storm with sustained winds of over 155mph. It made a second Florida landfall in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28th, near Cape Coral, Florida.

If you want to learn more about the Dry Tortugas, read my post about sailing from Key West to the Dry Tortugas or my yacht charter trip report from August 2021.

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