After Hurricane Irma: Key West struggles: ‘No money, nothing is open’


As life returns to a small semblance of normal in the Upper Keys, normal is still far off for residents living in the Middle and Lower Keys, where the usually raucous town of Key West was boarded up and shut down.

For the first time Wednesday, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department allowed residents past the checkpoint above Marathon to view what “Irmageddon” had done to their homes.

RELATED: HOW PARADISE WAS DESTROYED IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

The Marathon Airport took on the look of a disaster on foreign soil as the U.S. Army choppered in with relief supplies for the fragile islands slammed with Hurricane Irma’s 130 mph winds Sunday morning.

But not everything seemed dire.

At the Seven Mile Bridge, a long stretch of ocean looked as gloriously blue and untroubled as it ever has.

But on the other side, the Keys’ normal lush summer greenery began to turn rusty brown, as if a fire had raced through the mangrove and gumbo limbo forests. At the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, the mangrove leaves on which the tiny deer feed were stripped from branches.

On Ohio Key, Irma’s potent brew of wind and storm surge topped large luxury RVs at the Sunshine Key Resort and Marina.

Throughout the lower Keys, newer houses on stilts, built to stricter codes in the last few decades, seemed to have little damage, even on hardest-hit Cudjoe Key. There, DEA agents unloaded blue tarps from unmarked vans in front of a house with a damaged roof.

“We’re taking care of the first responders’ homes while they take care of everyone else,” said one agent, who declined to give his name.

On Stock Island, just outside Key West, John McCain waited three-and-a-half hours in a gas line at a Shell station, the only one with fuel for many miles.

“But I was told I can’t fill up the gas cans for my generator,” said McCain. “I’ll just fill up my truck and siphon, I guess.”

Key West Wednesday was a sonambulent shade of its usual boisterous self. Duval Street was a ghost town, including Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering holes, Sloppy Joe’s and Captain Tony’s.

Most of the city had no power, although it had come on at Ibis Bay Resort at the city’s entrance, only to go off again 12 hours later.

At a shopping center on North Roosevelt Boulevard, Army servicemen and Marines handed out water and food.

Each family received a 24-pack of drinking water and four boxes of dried rations for each family member in a town where grocery stores and ATMs remain powerless and closed.

“No money, nothing is open, it’s not like we have a choice,” said Michael Stec, whose family of six lives on a 43-foot boat at Garrison Bight on the Key West waterfront.

“The boat survived,” he said, “and now we will, too.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

NEW: Lake Worth couple accused of selling drugs in front of children
NEW: Lake Worth couple accused of selling drugs in front of children

A suburban Lake Worth couple was arrested during the past week on allegations they sold heroin and cocaine out of their home in the the presence of children. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office arrest Irvin Lamothe, 34, last Thursday on charges that include trafficking in heroin, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon...
Coast Guard encountered more than 1,200 boats during Trump’s 2017 stays
Coast Guard encountered more than 1,200 boats during Trump’s 2017 stays

More than 1,200 boaters off Palm Beach County had their day interrupted earlier this year by an encounter with a Coast Guard boat letting them know they’d gotten a little too close to the president of the United States. As President Trump returned to South Florida on Tuesday evening for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the first of potentially...
Trump in Palm Beach: President headed to golf course
Trump in Palm Beach: President headed to golf course

President Trump and his wife Melania and son Barron arrived at Palm Beach International Airport about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday to begin their Thanksgiving holiday. We don’t yet know what is on the President’s schedule today or when the rest of the First Family will arrive in Palm Beach. Check back for updates throughout the day. 9:30 a.m...
It’s a real headache correcting ‘Tampon Tax’ in red-state Florida
It’s a real headache correcting ‘Tampon Tax’ in red-state Florida

Normally, the email bulletins sent from the Florida Department of Revenue are dry and uninspiring. You have to be a tax wonk to care. And even then, maybe not. Recently, the department has issued guidance on such topics as: “Payments for the Purchase and Lease of Items Used for the Operation or Maintenance of a Municipally-Owned Golf Course&rdquo...
NEW: Defense says Austin Harrouff’s ‘Dr. Phil’ interview tapes incomplete
NEW: Defense says Austin Harrouff’s ‘Dr. Phil’ interview tapes incomplete

The defense attorneys for Austin Harrouff, the 20-year-old Jupiter man charged with killing two people and biting one of their faces in Martin County last year, say that the interviews between their client and TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw that have been provided to the court are not complete, according to court records. Attorney Nellie King wrote in...
More Stories