Hurricane Irma may have come and gone, but the massive storm, the strongest ever to form in the atlantic, has left behind a looming, buzzing safety threat: mosquitoes.
Officials throughout Southern Florida are always fighting a never-ending push and pull war against the state’s mosquito population in this hot, humid region smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Everglades.
But Irma has tilted that fight even further in the favor of the blood sucking, disease carrying pest insects.
Now neighborhoods throughout the southern region of the state are brimming with hurricane debris, which includes tree limbs, construction materials, and all manner of damaged contains that can be used to hold water, also known as the perfect breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
In a region where mosquito control officials go door to door to remove anything that can house the eggs and larvae of these horrible insects, the growing mountain of debris is certainly overwhelming.
“We really are behind the eight-ball,” said Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. “We have been lucky that we haven’t seen significant rainfall since the storm, but as soon as we do, we’re going to see mosquitoes.”
Officials throughout the region had to hold off on any kind of insecticide spraying in the days immediately following the storm. Irma knocked out power to more than 90% of homes in some counties, leading residents to keep their windows open day and night.
Government officials didn’t want pesticides floating into people’s homes, so they halted spraying for several days.
The mosquito problem is especially worrisome in Miami, which was the focal point of a Zika outbreak in 2016 that led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take the unprecedented step of issuing domestic travel warnings.