Delayed Fort Lauderdale boat show taking shape

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FORT LAUDERDALE — Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show organizer Kaye Pearson says the decision to postpone the Fort Lauderdale International Boat show until only a week after Hurricane Wilma was not “taken lightly.”

Pearson says he has been flooded with calls and e-mails about rescheduling the show so soon after the hurricane knocked out power and water to much of Broward County, including the show sites. But he says community leaders were confident that recovery would be swift, and there was little option.

“It’s difficult not to be sensitive,” says Pearson. “It was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly.”

After assessing the damages, Pearson says show organizers considered various options of rescheduling or canceling the show. The show does not have business interruption insurance, because staging a major outdoor event in South Florida during official hurricane season would be cost prohibitive, Pearson says. In addition, major hurricanes are typically rare in late October, and Broward County hasn’t been hit by such a fierce hurricane in more than 50 years.

More importantly, canceling the show would be a tremendous hit to local marine companies, as well as the marine industry at large, he says.

“It’s such a global event. It’s such a major show,” says Pearson.

Pearson admits that some have criticized him for “forcing” businesses to attend the show. He says the reality is that businesses signed a contract to attend, and the show will go on.

Rescheduling also posed difficulties, says Pearson. Show organizers did not want to book the show during the holiday season, leaving only a few weeks leeway. The Bahia Mar, the boat show’s principle site, was willing to postpone the event a week but would be unavailable after that. The facility, he says, had to re-arrange a few other unrelated events.

“This is such an incredible event in the marine industry — a $600 million show,” says Pearson. “Obviously we don’t expect we’ll reach that this year.”

As Thursday’s show opening loomed, a small army of some 500 to 600 workers calmly went about the business of setting up for the show. A walk-through on Sunday revealed people, tools, machines and boats in motion. Tents are being reconstructed. Boats are being guided into slips. Forklifts — show management has about 40 of them — are ubiquitous, scooting up ramps into the back of tractor-trailers and re-emerging with crates. By weekend’s end, about half of the 150 small exhibitor tents had been set up.

“Hours are long; fuel has been short; but we’re getting it done,” says Chuck Bolt, sales manager for Yachting Promotions.

Where things stand in Fort Lauderdale

Here is a progress report on the Fort Lauderdale cleanup and availability of resources, based on information from the Broward County and Miami-Dade government offices, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, and various news reports:

Bus service

Mass transit is operating on its normal weekday schedule today (Monday) until 6 p.m., at which time the buses will operate on the Sunday schedule. For questions call the Broward County Transit customer service center at (954) 357-8400.

Hotels

Hotels in the greater Fort Lauderdale area are making steady progress with power and water supplies. As of 6 a.m. Monday more than 85 hotels were open for business. For a current list go tohttp://www.sunny.org/. The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show Web site also has posted an extensive list of available hotels at http://www.fortlauderdaleinternationalboatshow.com/.

Power

More than 65 percent of residences and businesses in Broward County have had power restored as of 6 a.m. today. In Miami-Dade County power to more than 75 percent of homes and businesses has been restored. Florida Power & Light is estimating that all power will be restored by Nov. 22. The company also says it expects to make “significant” progress in the Fort Lauderdale area today and Tuesday.

Airports

All three of South Florida’s major airports are open and fully operational.

Rental cars and gasoline

Rental cars are available at the airports and taxis are plentiful. Power has been restored at more gas stations and the lines are growing shorter.

Water

Water service has been restored throughout Broward County, however, a boil water order is still in effect for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Boil water orders change frequently. For the latest list of cities under a boil water order, visit www.broward.organd click on Hurricane Wilma. The Broward County Hurricane Hotline can be reached at (954) 831-4000.

Phone Service

Some 611,000 Bell South customers in Florida are still without telephone service as of Monday morning. This includes about 20 percent in Broward County and 15 percent in Miami-Dade.

Road conditions

Many traffic lights still are not operational. Officials advise motorists to exercise extreme caution at intersections. There will be more vehicles on the roadways now since Broward County employees were scheduled to return to work Monday. Street cleanup continues. Schools are closed at least through Wednesday.