A Month to Go
As tourists were being airlifted from the Yucatan and southern Florida was cleaning up debris flung around by Hurricane Wilma, tourism officials last week were scrambling to provide best guesses about when tourists could return. For those planning a trip to Wilma-whipped areas, here's what you need to know:
* Cancun and Cozumel: Both were hit hard and will not be tourist-ready for some time. Hotels "with little or no structural damage will reopen within 100 days," according to a written statement from the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau last week. In coming days, look for updates at www.cancun.info and www.islacozumel.com.mx. A few hotels in Cancun are set to reopen Dec. 20, while others said they will not accept reservations until the end of January.
* Riviera Maya: The area south of Cancun suffered less damage. Officials said that 65 percent of hotels are fine, 35 percent will be ready in a week to 45 days, and the balance will take two to three months to reopen. Until the official Web site can be updated (www.rivieramaya.com), information is available at www.10gatesrivieramaya.com.
* Florida: Naples, Fort Lauderdale and Miami were hit with major power outages and wind damage, but not much major structural damage. By the middle of last week, 85 percent of Miami had reopened. But power might not be restored to Broward and Palm Beach counties until Nov. 8. The annual boat show scheduled last week in Fort Lauderdale was postponed until Nov. 3, at which point officials say they'll be ready to host the crowds of visitors that arrive for the show.
The upper Keys reopened to tourists Friday. Officials said the lower Keys, including Key West, would be ready for visitors by tomorrow, but noted that the landscaping at some resorts was "signficantly impacted" and that some attractions might take extra time to recover. For updates, go to www.fla-keys.com or www.visitflorida.com (click "destinations").
The hurricane season that started June 1 ends Nov. 30. But already, the Atlantic basin has had 12 hurricanes, compared with the historic normal: 5.8. Most hurricanes occur in August and September (28.7 and 36.3 percent, respectively), said Frank Lepore, spokesman with the National Hurricane Center. October is the third worst month, at nearly 18 percent. The norm for November: 4.4 percent.
Americans have gotten so fat that the U.S. Coast Guard is reconsidering boat capacity guidelines. When figuring how many people can safely be on a given boat, the Coast Guard has been assuming the average weight of passengers at 140 pounds, or 160 if only adults are on board. But those averages calculated in 1960 just haven't kept up with the bulk of Americans.
"We are looking into regulatory change on this," said Coast Guard spokesman Dan Tremper. Tremper noted that changes would affect more than 20,000 different types of boats, including tiny personal crafts.
The issue was put into sharp relief last month after a tour boat on New York's Lake George capsized, killing 20. Initial reports indicated that the boat was overloaded with weight even though it was a couple of passengers short of capacity. The investigation continues.
The Federal Aviation Administration acted on the issue in August, ordering airlines to assume that adult passengers weigh 14 pounds more on average than they did a decade ago. The FAA also knows that people are carrying heavier stuff on board, so the new guidelines assume that the average passenger and carry-on weighs 190 pounds -- up from 170 pounds. In winter, an extra five pounds per person are added to the estimates. If a coat and holiday gluttony add more than five pounds to your winter weight, do the airlines a favor and carry less on board.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Fly to Stockholm this winter for $435 round trip, including taxes. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.
Reporting: Cindy Loose
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