Hurricane Irma was such a behemoth of a storm that even before she hit Florida in early September, boat-show organizers were frantic. The team that runs the Tampa Bay Boat Show, originally scheduled for September 8-10, moved its dates to October 13-15 at the Tampa Convention Center, not wanting to take a chance at all. Meanwhile, on Florida’s east coast, organizers of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Miami International Boat Show and newly renamed Miami Yacht Show @ Collins Avenue (formerly Yachts Miami Beach) watched weather forecasters’ squiggly hurricane-track lines with trepidation. At first, it looked like Category 4 Irma was going to make a direct hit on southeast Florida, potentially wiping out the marinas and docks that would be needed for two of the most prominent boat shows held in America each year.
Luckily for those show organizers, Hurricane Irma took a westward track and instead came ashore in the Florida Keys, followed by Marco Island. But her immense size meant that all of Florida was in her crosshairs anyway, with storm surge and wind damage seen in both Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The good news is that for the next upcoming show on the autumn calendar, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, all seven show sites survived the hurricane. Fort Lauderdale is expected to be ready to welcome yachts and boaters alike by opening day on November 1—with high hopes that hurricane season, which lasts through November 30, has already done its worst damage.
Fort Lauderdale sustained 70 MPH winds gusting up to 90 MPH when Irma roared ashore, but key event sites, including the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, had only minimal damage (it didn’t even lose power during the storm). Boatbuilders showed every sign of holding their commitments to display new models and more at the event as officials certified the region’s bridges safe for cruising in the days following Irma’s landfall.
As for the Miami shows scheduled in February, everything should be completely normal—and, perhaps, even a little better than usual. With so much news coverage of Florida destruction, hotels and restaurants are offering deals to entice tourists back to the area while letting them know that southeast Florida’s infrastructure is just fine.
“We are blessed for sure,” Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said just a few days after Irma left the area. “The storm was bigger than ever imagined and very concerning for our visitors and 1.9 million residents. Broward County was well prepared with emergency services, and cleanup activities are taking place throughout the area. The high-code standards of our many new buildings showed that good construction pays off. We expect to be back to normal operations and welcoming vacationers and scheduled meetings and conference attendees shortly.”