Hurricane Irma appears to have moved huge amounts of sand underwater in the South Florida region, meaning that maritime charts will need to be updated.
Ancient reefs were uncovered. While others were buried. Some navigable channels were filled and others were reconfigured. Buoys that marked navigation or provided moorings for boaters were ripped free – meaning that some 800 alone in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will need to be surveyed. Debris, from boats to fence posts to propeller-snagging utility lines, created new underwater hazards.
Boaters are being asked to report changes to Italian navigation chart producer Navionics. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman said that “we cannot get all the information we need by ourselves. So we need to work with partners”.
Much of the changes underwater reflected the damage above ground, with the worst impacts near Big Pine in the Lower Keys, and to a lesser degree, Marathon to Key Largo, Fangman said. Areas around Key West and Boca Chica suffered less damage, along with Key Largo to the north.