Hurricane Irma’s wet and windy path along the length of the Florida peninsula resulted in a surprisingly limited amount of damage at the state’s larger airports, while smaller general aviation fields were hit harder. All of the state’s major hubs, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Tallahassee, were either already operating by Tuesday afternoon or expected to shortly resume commercial flights. Fort Myers (KRSW) was closed to commercial traffic awaiting the restoration of power, but GA flights were already operating there.
Airport officials at the hardest hit spot in the state, Key West, were hopeful that they could resume commercial flights by Thursday but were guarded in their optimism pending further damage review. As of Tuesday, Naples remained closed with substantial flooding apparent in photographs from local pilots on social media sites, but there was also reportedly little damage to the infrastructure there. Naples and nearby Fort Myers were hard hit by Irma, as well, with the storm remaining at Category 3-4 strength as it passed through the area in the southwestern part of the state.
The best advice for pilots headed to airports that serve light GA is, unless you already know the conditions at your destination airport, to check Notams and even call ahead and verify the field’s conditions. Moreover, it would be smart to have a good alternate at the ready and to fly with extra reserves in case fuel is hard to find.