Florida Keys to reopen to visitors in October

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Florida Keys officials say the island chain that was hit hard by Hurricane Irma will reopen to tourists on October 1.

Officials made the announcement Monday, more than two weeks after the Category 4 storm made landfall in the Florida Keys. The storm destroyed an estimated 25 percent of homes on the islands.

Florida Keys officials had asked visitors to postpone their trips after the storm damaged power and water supplies. Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman said power and water service is now restored to customers who can receive them and a boil water notice has been lifted.

Hospitals have reopened in the Upper Keys and Key West, officials said Monday.

"We know we have a long way to go before the Keys fully recover," Monroe County Mayor George Neugent said in a statement. "But because tourism is our top economic engine and many of our residents' livelihoods depend on it, we also know that we need to begin asking visitors to return."

The Key West and Marathon airports have reopened, but debris removal continues and some hotels and tourist facilities are still recovering. Key West did have its first cruise ship return to the island on Sunday.