Hurricane Frances Damages U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges and Facilities in Florida and Georgia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hurricane Frances has damaged 17 National Wildlife Refuges throughout Florida and Georgia as well as an Ecological Services office in Vero Beach and a National Fish Hatchery in Florida.
Hit hard was Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which had also been damaged by Hurricane Charley. Hobe Sound NWR, Pelican Island NWR in Sebastian and Archie Carr NWR near Titusville and St. Johns NWR were also damaged by Hurricane Frances’ initial landfall. Other National Wildlife Refuges damaged on Florida’s inland are A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR by Boynton Beach, Lake Wales NWR, and Lake Woodruff NWR (also damaged by Hurricane Charley) in DeLeon Springs.
On Florida’s west coast, Pinellas NWR near Crystal River, Chassahowitzka NWR, Crystal River NWR -- both in Crystal River, Cedar Keys NWR, Lower Suwannee NWR near Chiefland, St. Vincent NWR by Apalachicola, and St. Marks NWR south of Tallahassee. Welaka National Fish Hatchery in Florida had also had damage. Vero Beach Ecological Services office experienced wind and rain damage as well. In Georgia, Okefenokee NWR near Folkston and Piedmont NWR near Macon also experienced damage.
Presently, personnel are still being accounted for, a process more difficult due to loss of communications, power and the sheer size of the destructive path of Hurricane Frances.
An emergency response crew with chain saws, heavy equipment, a helicopter and an airplane is currently supporting recovery efforts for the affected facilities on Florida’s east coast. Initial damage repair cost estimates available at this time exceed $10 million for Hurricane Frances. Some areas have yet to be assessed due to continued flooding, high water and isolation from tree-blocked roads.
Primary damage is from the storm surge causing beach erosion and damage to dikes and roads. Additionally, high winds and rain have damaged visitor centers, offices, housing, and support buildings.
Wildlife impacts will probably be greatest on the sea turtles nests being destroyed or buried due to beach erosion, inundation, or deposition of additional sand over the nests (reportedly up to two feet at Hobe Sound NWR). Sea turtle eggs must have a specific depth of sand for incubation. Additional impacts may be experienced by other species, such as birds and small mammals from habitat lost from trees and other vegetation damaged from the high winds or erosion on riverbanks and streams. Aquatic species may be adversely impacted by additional sediments, effluents and contaminants washed into streams, lakes, and into the ocean.
Photos available at: http://southeast.fws.gov/news/2004/hurricanefrances
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Atlanta, GA 30345