KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- At 5 p.m. Monday afternoon forecasters at the National Hurricane Center discontinued a hurricane watch in the Florida Keys for Hurricane Ike.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for expected sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, primarily in the Lower Keys and Key West, beginning late Monday evening and continuing through most of Tuesday.
As part of protective actions, officials asked visitors to leave Saturday morning, however, they should be able to return this Friday (Sept. 12), if not a day earlier.
"We apologize for interrupting their vacations, but we needed visitors to leave the Keys to ensure their safety," said Keys Mayor Mario Di Gennaro, who also chairs the region's tourism council. "We do hope they return and understand our concern for their well-being."
On Ike's current track with its center well south of the Keys, forecasters expect Keys weather conditions to improve Wednesday.
No major wind and storm surge impacts are anticipated, according to Jon Rizzo, Key West's weather office warning coordinator.
"Thankfully, this should not be a serious situation," Rizzo said.
Updates following the storm are to be posted on the Florida Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com
to provide detailed information giving the exact date visitors can return.
Seeking to ensure the safety of the destination's visitors, the Florida Keys & Key West tourism council works hand in hand with local emergency management officials to fully communicate to visitors if a tropical cyclone threatens the island chain.
The Keys Web site features a comprehensive section on hurricanes and storm safety that is linked from the site's home page.