Five months of Florida Keys recovering from Hurricane Irma

Being a resident of Florida, one is expected to be prepared for hurricanes. Stock the water, batteries, gas and food; hunker down and wait or leave. However, as the days drew nearer trailed by the catastrophic predictions swirling about Hurricane Irma, residents and guests were fearful for their homes and lives.

Even with advanced warnings when Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower portion of the Florida Keys on September 10, 2017, residents and guests were unprepared for the devastation left in its wake. The hurricane touched land with sustained winds at 130 mph. Many people lost their homes and belongings which though are replaceable, the death toll topped at 14. For a tiny stretch of islands, that is a high number. Some people watched from all around the world on Florida Keys webcams. It was a shuddering moment when communication was lost and the screen went black. Prayers from millions went out to these poor people.

Human cohesion sparked the worst situation almost immediately

After any hurricane comes to the real story of recovery and the efforts put forth by so many. Reports estimate that the Hurricane Irma damaged 90% of the homes in the Keys and left 25% completely uninhabitable and destroyed. Power crews flooded in to try and make the best of the infrastructure that is left and also having to replace so much of it just to get power going again. No power for residents means no communication with the outside world. No cell phones to be able to communicate or check for further updates. Power is vital to get a community going again. Thankfully, due to the around-the- clock work of many, the Keys were without power only for a few days. Water supply was quickly restored, which meant a lot to the residents as they would now have clean drinking water while they laboriously worked in the mid-September heat to get back on their feet again.

Elimination of damage is still ongoing after five months

Hurricane Irma Evacuation Traffic
Liz Hankins and James Kiernan, of North Lauderdale, fill trash bags with sand on Pompano Beach in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Amy Beth Bennett /Sun Sentinel/TNS) SOUTH FLORIDA OUT; NO MAGS; NO SALES; NO INTERNET; NO TV

As it stands today, five months since Hurricane Irma devastated the Florida Keys, more than a 20 mile stretch in Monroe County is still in the process of clearing land debris. Concerted efforts from residents are what is driving the recovery along. There are just not enough paid workers to get it all done. By residents chipping in, more is getting cleared and done even if it seems a snail’s pace. Behind the scenes, the tourism boards are working diligently to bring tourism back to the area. Tourist dollars are what the local government uses to pay for a cleanup. Money spent in the area at the local bars and restaurants goes to owners in support of their personal and business cleanup. Recovery is not just a debris-clearing event; it means economic and emotional rebound as well.

It is a magical spirit of people that binds the heart of this community together in adversity and times of need.

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