Storm damage to tourism infrastructure minimal in Florida, Bahamas

NEW YORK -- As Hurricane Floyd continued its charge up the East Coast last week, early reports from the Bahamas and Florida indicated that damage to hotels, resorts and airports was for the most part minor.

As reported, cruise lines rerouted ships in the area to alternate ports. At press time the lines were still assessing damage to private islands.

Following is a breakdown:

Bahamas

Minor damage was reported on Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island. However, the Out Islands seemed to be the hardest hit.

According to general director of tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, teams are going to the islands to make damage assessments.

He said there have been various reports that some properties will be shut down until mid-December and that others emerged relatively unscathed.

The Bahamas Web site, www.bahamas.com, has been updated routinely with status reports.

Nassau/Paradise Island

Nassau Airport and the Port of Nassau were both open Sept. 15, and cruise ships were expected to resume calls immediately.

Atlantis, which operates the Paradise Island Airport, closed the facility Sept. 13. The airport had been scheduled to close as part of a renovation project.

The Sheraton Grand Paradise Island experienced serious damage, but is open.

Club Med Paradise Island closed to clean up debris. It was scheduled to resume operations Sept. 25.

In Nassau, Breezes Bahamas, which suffered cosmetic damage, including broken windows and sand in the pool, was cleaning up and planning to reopen as of Sept. 19.

Grand Bahama Island

The Freeport Airport was closed due to flooding and expected to reopen Sept. 17.

Vanderpool-Wallace said the runway is clear, but there is still debris that needs to be cleaned up.

He expected the airport to be back at "full strength" in a week.

Hotels reported mostly minor damage.

Tyrone Thurston, general manager of the Bahamas Princess Resort, said some trees snapped, and that a section of the roof on one of the outdoor restaurants was damaged. Otherwise, things were "fully operational."

The Out Islands

Reports were sketchy as to the damage on Abaco, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma and Harbour Island, but officials said San Salvador was badly hit.

The Club Med Columbus Isle on San Salvador was scheduled to reopen Oct. 2. A spokesperson for the chain said the buildings were intact.

The airport on San Salvador was open.

There also were reports of significant structural damage to hotels on Abaco.

South Florida

The area from Palm Beach to the Keys experienced the storm under largely clear skies and barely detectable winds.

No hotels or attractions were damaged in South Florida by the few outer bands of rain and wind that occasionally swept by, according to tourism officials.

However, storm surges on beaches exacted a toll of moderate-to-heavy sand erosion along some stretches.

Although the area's three major airports -- Miami, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and West Palm Beach -- were left with little, if any air service for much of Sept. 14, this was because major carriers were being cautious by curtailing service.

Farther north, around Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine Beach and Jacksonville Beach, there were scattered power outages.

A storm-surge destroyed 100 feet of Daytona Beach's 1,000-foot Main Street Pier.

In Flagler Beach, 75-feet of the 500-foot Flagler Beach Pier was lost.

Tourist offices in Jacksonville, Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach could not be reached at press time for a further update.

Central Florida

The Orlando area, with 92,000 hotel and motel rooms, became the temporary refuge for thousands of evacuees.

SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Studios Florida both reopened Sept. 15, along with Universal's CityWalk entertainment-dining district.

But Universal's Islands of Adventure, with many outdoor rides, was not to reopen until Sept. 16.

Walt Disney World reopened its Animal Kingdom theme park from noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 15, ahead of schedule, but only for guests staying on Disney real estate.

The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios theme parks, which closed at 3 p.m. Sept. 14, were to reopen Sept. 16.

This was the first time that weather forced closing of a Disney park for a whole day.

Cruise Lines

Cruise companies sailing the Bahamas were assessing the status of several private islands in the path of the monster storm.

Royal Caribbean said it evacuated about 20 residents from its private island, CoCoCay, early Sept 14 and by late Sept. 15 was sending a three-man team via helicopter to assess damage.

Holland America Line evacuated Half Moon Cay, one of the largest cruise-line private islands, Sept 14.

Disney Cruise Line evacuated 30 employees and residents from Castaway Cay Sept. 13; a company spokesman said the line was attempting to "get people there to take a look at it."

Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay suffered unspecified damage, according to a company spokeswoman.

The island was evacuated Sept. 13 and at press time, NCL was considering canceling a scheduled Sept. 19 call at the island by Leeward.

Ernie Blum, Laura Dennis, Henry Magenheim and Brian Major all contributed to this report

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