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When Hurricane Irma rolled across the Florida Keys last summer, it wasn't just the motels and marinas, stilt houses and shell shacks strung along the island chain that were slammed.
Underwater, the storm pushed around massive amounts of sand, uncovering ancient reefs and burying some closer to its path. Some channels were filled, others reconfigured. Buoys that marked navigation or provided moorings for boaters were ripped free- 800 in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will need to be surveyed. Debris like boats, fenceposts, and propeller-snagging utility lines created new underwater hazards.
Navigation - Banks - Sea - Grass - Flats
Navigation, never easy among the mud banks and sea grass flats or maze of islands, took on new challenges.
Now the sanctuary that stretches from the north end of Biscayne Bay to the Dry Tortugas is teaming up with the boating industry to undertake the daunting task of mapping the changes. The Sanctuary is asking boaters to report changes to Navionics, an Italian company that produces navigational charts. Navionics also helped chart changes in the northeast after Superstorm Sandy.
Information - Partners - Florida - Keys - National
"We cannot get all the information we need by ourselves. So we need to work with partners," said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman, who oversees a staff of less than three dozen, including a six-man buoy team responsible for about 2,800 square miles.
For mariners, changes after a storm are par for the course, but Irma was a rare Category 4 storm that reached land, and the first to hit the Keys with such fury since Donna crossed Marathon with 140 mph winds in 1960. Hurricane-force winds stretched 160 miles. Tropical storm winds reached 440 miles. After Irma crossed Cudjoe Key, before and after satellite photos showed a dramatic bright halo of water clouded with sand all along the coastline, from the Treasure Coast to Cape Coral.
Damage - Underwater
Much of the damage underwater...
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