Wildfires in South Florida are causing traffic problems, with Alligator Alley, a 100-mile stretch of I-75, shut down since Saturday.
The fire had destroyed an estimated 100,000 acres of the Florida Everglades by yesterday. Dense smoke limited visibility, and authorities are concerned the fire might jump the interstate.
Although the state police were able to open a small stretch of the highway late Sunday, "we're still experiencing quite a bit of visibility problems in the Broward county area along Alligator Alley," says Lt. Malcom Rhodes of the state police. "It's still necessitating us keeping the biggest majority of the alley closed. Obviously that's creating a lot of problems for the traffic that's attempting to travel from the Fort Myers/Naples area to the Lauderdale/Miami area. We've having to reroute traffic off of the alley onto State Route 29 and down to U.S. 41. Both of those roadways are two-lane highways, obviously not as well-suited for the volume of traffic that we're seeing. We are seeing some delays in traffic, and certainly some definite traffic congestion along those routes."
Rhodes also says that I-95 and the Florida turnpike will likely see increased traffic as people avoid the I-75 fire zone.
The Everglades fire has not posed a threat to property or human lives. In fact, the burn is actually beneficial to the swamp's ecosystem, clearing dead grass and brush to make way for new growth.
However, Southern Florida isn't the only area with fire problems. By nightfall Sunday, the forestry division said 2,515 fires have burned up more than 130,000 acres so far this year, destroying homes in Port St. Lucie north of Palm Beach. Rainfall levels have been 90% below normal during the December-through-April dry season. The fire season is not expected to end for another month.