As Irma moves on and the rain wanes, Florida transportation officials have a warning for residents and visitors: Stay off the roadways.
Road conditions remain unsafe in parts of the state and crews are out clearing dangerous debris and examining bridges and roads to make sure they are safe for travel.
All across the state, officials are clearing debris and signs blown from highways during the storm; residential streets remain impassable due to fallen trees and branches, and authorities are responding to hundreds of reports of objects on local roadways. In central Florida, a portion of the interstate highway washed away during Hurricane Irma’s passing.
U.S. Route 1, the only way in or out of the Florida Keys, is shut down while crews inspect conditions before anyone is allowed back in.
And road conditions were deteriorating in the Jacksonville area, where Irma’s force was bringing high winds and flooding Monday afternoon.
“Now is not the time to go sightseeing,” the Jacksonville highway patrol division tweeted just past noon Monday. “Extremely dangerous conditions currently ongoing. Stay indoors and let us work for you.”
The Florida Department of Transportation was focusing on clearing the major highways: US-1, Interstate 75, Interstate 95, Interstate 4, the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 10, Gov. Rick Scott said in a morning update.
Elsewhere, crews are clearing debris and working with utilities to restore traffic signals. Most of the state remained without electricity Monday.
Jax: Now is NOT the time to go sightseeing. Extremely dangerous conditions currently ongoing. Stay indoors and let us work for you. pic.twitter.com/X5AIbaWIhG
— FHPJacksonville (@FhpJacksonville) September 11, 2017
We URGE all nonessential traffic to remain off the roadways until damage assessment teams can clear the roads of hazards.
— Putnam County EM (@PutnamCountyEM) September 11, 2017
Troopers clearing I-4 near the 44MM in Polk County. pic.twitter.com/q6G4VNfcx7
— Sgt. Steve Gaskins (@SteveG717) September 11, 2017
— LakelandPD (@LakelandPD) September 11, 2017
Scott said authorities are working to identify routes for delivering fuel to gas stations as ports reopen, and he said the state’s highway patrol will continue to escort fuel tanks to get the supply out as soon as possible. The state transportation agency had cleared access to Port Everglades, he said.
But the port said it is awaiting Coast Guard approval to reopen. Once the port opens, officials said, they expect to begin sending out fuel trucks to resupply stations.
Port Tampa Bay said in a tweet that it plans to open Tuesday. Officials said fuel stored at the port had been loaded on tanker trucks and sent for delivery to the region.
Damage assessment is underway @PortEverglades. The Port will reopen following Coast Guard approval.
— Port Everglades (@PortEverglades) September 11, 2017
— Port Tampa Bay (@PortTampaBay) September 11, 2017
For transportation agencies, the goal is to make roads passable and safe, but officials say the challenge is keeping residents away. Monroe County officials on Monday pleaded with residents and visitors to refrain from trying to return home as the road assessment continues. They said they understand that people are eager to get back to the Keys to check on property and loved ones, but their attempts are only backing up traffic and delaying crews trying to get into the area.
The state dispatched five cut-and-toss crews Monday morning, and four bridge inspection teams to clear passage and verify bridge integrity on Route 1. Four more teams are expected to fly into Key West on Tuesday to help with the effort. Drones also are being used for aerial inspections.
“Once the roads are cleared, and the bridges are inspected for use, aid and relief can start to move as it is flown in,” Monroe County said in a statement Monday.