Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in the Florida Keys, September 9. Some areas were more severely impacted than others. Thankfully, the Upper Keys of Islamorada, Tavernier and Key Largo were mostly spared from the full wrath of the storm. Sadly, those living in Marathon and the Lower Keys were not as fortunate.
To be sure, the Upper Keys received their share of the damage. Some people lost their homes. Those properties on the Atlantic-side suffered the worst, particularly the mobile home parks where some homes were devastated by flooding. Trees landed on homes. Roofs were damaged. Most of the boat docks on the oceanside were severely damaged if not destroyed altogether. Many trees came down.
It sounds awful, and it is, but compared to what the Lower Keys are dealing with, we lucked out. Fortunately Islamorada and the Upper Keys were just outside the worst of Irma’s winds. The majority of the homes made it through with no or minimal damage. Thankfully my house made it through without a scratch. The screen porch didn’t even get a hole in it. My neighborhood only lost power for a couple of days. And while we certainly took a beating, the reality of our current situation is far different from that displayed in the media. Destroyed mobile home parks make good sensationalized news but do not tell the full story.
I won’t sugar coat it. Things do not look normal in Islamorada. Things do not look pretty. There are large mounds of tree debris and items damaged by flooding at the roadside awaiting pickup by the crews that have been working tirelessly to clean up this mess. But the recovery has been rapid. In less than a month’s time 70,000 cubic yard of debris have been removed from Islamorada alone by the twenty-five crews working there. When I returned to an undamaged home a week following the storm I had no power and could barely walk around my property due to all of the fallen tree limbs. The trees that remained standing were mostly denuded. But in two days, my entire yard was cleaned up and power restored thanks to friends and a utility truck from Wisconsin. Within a week, the massive pile of tree debris that obscured my house from the street was gone. And natures resilience has evidenced itself in the new leaves that I wake up to every morning.
People are working night and day to clean up the mess Irma left. The number of resources here from all parts of the country is staggering and the headway made in just a month’s time since Irma made landfall here is amazing. I can’t thank the emergency responders and linemen enough. I’ve seen firefighters and policemen that are a long way from home. The day we returned home and I saw a convoy of cops from Philadelphia I cried. And a special thanks to the Michel’s linemen from Wisconsin that strung a new service line for us. You guys are amazing. You make me proud to be an American.
Things are getting back to normal in Islamorada. Beers at Florida Keys Brewing, sunset cocktails at the Lorelei and dinner at Marker 88 is still the norm for me. And I’m not alone. But it’s just locals. Businesses are open with the exception of those oceanside hotels that want to return to a pre-Irma look and are rebuilding docks and re-planting palm trees before opening to the public.
And while it’s understandable that some may be hesitant to visit, there is one thing that Irma didn’t touch. Our fishery. Despite all of the gloom, the fishing has been amazing. Tarpon have been everywhere and there has been a ridiculous number of bonefish around. And nobody is fishing for them. So while things on land may be a bit grim, under the surface of the water, it’s a different story.