Florida Keys emergency management officials discontinued all evacuation orders associated with Hurricane Ivan early Monday and said residents who left the Keys due to the threat from the storm could return immediately. At the same time, tourism officials chose Thursday, Sept. 16, as the suggested date that visitors should being returning to the Keys. The decision to permit residents back was made after the latest forecast tracks provided confidence that Ivan's dangerous core should remain well west of the Keys. A tropical storm watch for the Seven Mile Bridge through the Dry Tortugas National Park including Big Pine Key and Key West issued Sunday is likely to be discontinued at 11 a.m. Monday. However, the National Weather Service Key West office cautioned motorists to be mindful of some of the storm's outer spiral bands that might pass over the Middle and Lower Keys later Monday, bringing sporadic periods of heavy rain and gusty winds.
Officials urged evacuees to exercise the same patience in returning to the Keys as they did in leaving. Deputies are actively patrolling all residential and business areas and traffic enforcement officers will be patrolling highways to help ensure a safe return for all residents.
Returning residents are encouraged to fill up vehicle fuel tanks prior to entering the Keys as some gas stations report limited supplies. A few days are needed before fuel levels in the Keys return to normal.
Monroe County schools and offices are scheduled to be closed until Wednesday.
Keys tourism officials asked visitors to delay their vacation plans until Thursday to provide ample time for the tourism infrastructure to return to normal.
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