Fort Sumter reopens after Irma brought "a lot of dead fish, a lot of water, a lot of mud"

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When Fort Sumter Park Rangers came got their first look at the historic site after Tropical Storm Irma, they found it in rough shape.

The dock was badly damaged, pluff mud was covering the entrance, and some of the cannons were already rusting. Luckily there was no damage to the historic structure, and the fort was able to reopen Friday.

“It was rough in the beginning, there was a lot of dead fish, a lot of water, a lot of mud,” said Park Ranger James Papai. “We spent many, many days shoveling mud, trying to clean up stuff.”

With the park reopened to visitors Friday, roughly 100 people loaded onto the ferry boat, the first one out in two weeks.

When the ferry docked, the group also helped hoist the American flag back up at the fort, which was taken down on September 6.

Park Rangers estimate the storm surge was about five-feet at one point. Because of that, their focus has been on cleaning the large canons and the centuries-old artifacts, protecting them from rust and erosion. A group of experts from Clemson University and the Warren Lasch Conservation Center are working on the conservation efforts.

“There’s been an incredible amount of effort by a lot of people to not only clean cannons with fresh water but to also remove rust and to take it back to what it was even just a week ago,” said Papai.

Park Rangers said they learned a lot from Hurricane Matthew, so they had a much better idea about what to protect and what to conserve this time around.

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