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Keys tourism racing to get back in business after Hurricane Irma

MiamiHerald / Some residents call it the Irmanator: The roughly 97-mile stretch between Key Largo and Key West that traces the devastating path of Hurricane Irma, as she blasted through the Lower Keys and then seemed to grow bored with destruction further north.

Get past it and you’ll reach Key West, the tourism heartbeat of the Florida Keys, where damage is minimal, cruise ships are docking and tourists are trickling back in. But the drive down the Overseas Highway is no Key West. It’s a testament to Irma’s wrath, the breadth of her impact and the challenges that lie ahead for an island chain whose livelihood depends on cooperative weather.

Workers use front-end loaders to restore Sombrero Beach Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Marathon, Fla. Sunday marked the first day, since Hurricane Irma passed through the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, that Keys officials gave the green light for visitors to return to the island chain. While Key Largo and Key West were least impacted, other areas of the Keys, including Marathon, are still recovering.

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