Frances spares Florida widespread devastation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Floridas tourism assets are in remarkably good shape in the aftermath of Hurricane Frances, according to a spokesman for Visit Florida, the official tourism marketing corporation for Florida.

From a statewide perspective its pretty encouraging, the spokesman said. Hotels, theme parks and airports are in remarkably good shape. A number of coastal properties from St. Augustine to Palm Beach saw some damage. Some are closed, some are just doing repairs while theyre open, some are absolutely untouched.

Most Palm Beach County oceanfront hotels remained closed as of Sept. 7, with the exception of Boca Raton Resort & Club. Most non-beachfront hotels remained open, but scattered power outages in the area remain. Nearly 3 million Floridians remain without power on Sept. 7, according to local reports.

The Palm Beach International Airport reopened Sept. 6 and expected to return to full functioning in three days. The airport advised passengers to confirm their flights and expect road closures and congestion.

Because emergency crews were already in the state following Hurricane Charley, they were able to start work immediately on the impact from Frances, the spokesman said.

Visit Florida retained the University of Miami to do an industry survey on the effects of Charley, and it will now include the effects of Frances. Until the study is complete, there is no way to come up with a reliable figure for how much damage to tourism resulted from the storms, Visit Florida said. A report will be completed next week in time for Visit Floridas regular quarterly meeting.

Walt Disney World in Orlando closed early Friday night and stayed closed Saturday and Sunday. The park partially reopened on Monday, and by Tuesday was fully operational.

Lee County in southwest Florida reported only minor effects from Hurricane Frances. Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers remained fully operational. Sanibel Islands and Captiva were still in the cleanup process on Sept. 7.

The Florida Keys reported the infrastructure was unharmed by Frances. The electric grid remained unharmed by the storm. The freshwater pipeline from Florida City is intact. U.S. Highway 1, the Overseas Highway, is open with no reported problems. Gasoline supplies are adequate in the Middle and Upper Keys, but are limited in the Lower Keys and Key West. Major highways to the Keys are operating except I-95 in Palm Beach, where a sinkhole developed on the northbound side.

Southwest Florida destinations of Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades reported virtually no damage from the storm and they remain open for business. Tampa also reported no damage from Frances, which brought tropical storm conditions to the area. The citys tourist attractions remain open.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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