Throughout September, Hurricanes Harvey, Jose, Irma, and Maria contributed to the largest amount of “Accumulated Cyclone Energy” tracked in a single month than any other time period on record. In Puerto Rico, millions of people are still reeling without basic necessities after Maria devastated the entire island.
If you live in the Caribbean or along the Gulf of Mexico, chances are that their own lives has been affected — if not entirely upended — by an unprecedented month of weather.
The hurricanes didn’t destroy everything though.
A heartening update about the state of things on the ocean floor off Key Largo, Florida, is a rare piece of post-hurricane news where things did not run nearly as poorly as they could have.
Powerful blizzards can wreak havoc on coral reefs, injury marine life and devastating whole underwater ecosystems. So Billy Wise, general manager of Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo, was understandably concerned with what his divers would detect following Hurricane Irma.
Wise, however, was pleasantly astonished.
“The reefs look spectacular, compared to what we thought they would look like, ” he told The Miami Herald after divers scoured corals at several area reefs. Fortunately, “everything looks great.”
Aside from a few the matter of sand displacement — which, in effect, generated new dive sites — barely anything had been affected.
The storm even unearthed a buried treasure for divers to explore: an anchor from the SS Benwood, a sunken World War II freighter.
Any sighs of relief, however, are bittersweet in the grand scheme of things.
Coral reefs tend to act as a natural buffer against powerful cyclones. But as waters warm due to increasing carbon levels in the ambiance, those reefs disappear. That spells bad news for the coastal communities that tend to take more of the brunt from bad weather.
Scientists believe, for instance, that a dying, 360 -mile Florida Reef Tract — of which just 10% is contained in living coral — built the effects of Hurricane Irma worse for Floridians.
When coral is damaged or destroyed by turbulent weather, it can induce future storms even worse, creating a cycle that doesn’t bode well for marine life or humen on the coast.
For now, the folks at Rainbow Reef Dive Center are just alleviated the coral in their neck of the woods — er, ocean — is here another day.
“All in all, we’re ready and happy to be letting guests come back in, ” Wise told the Miami Herald. “We have a great staff of 70 and we want to keep them here and working . … People are going to be curious about what’s happening on the reef, and that will help rebuild the Keys economy.”
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