For once, I’m glad I am not in the Florida Keys. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Keys are right in the sights of Hurricane Irma, now sitting at Cat 5. The storm is still out at sea, as of this writing, closing in on the Windward islands and unless something changes, will be coming right up through the Bahamas, the Florida Straits, and the Keys by this weekend. It is not going to be pretty when it hits.
The Keys are extremely low in regards to sea level. The highest point in Key West is 18 ft. The islands flood when the tides are high, so it will not take much of storm surge to inundate everything. While building codes have been updated over the years to supposedly withstand hurricane force winds, a Cat 5 has the potential to scour every structure right off the islands. There are a lot of old buildings in the Keys, a lot of trailers, more than few places where building codes have been, ‘avoided’, and a lot of structures exposed to the sea with no protection.
The bridges are built pretty good but I doubt anyone ever expected a storm of this size to come roaring through. A downed bridge would take a very long time to get rebuilt. Plus, most power, and fresh water comes down from the mainland and is attached to said bridges. Sewage is pumped back out.
Boats are going to take a pounding. Most marinas will kick everyone out to save the docks. There are many places one can go and moor off. Mangrove channels, canals, and the like will provide some protection. But again, given the strength of this storm, there are going to be a lot of boats which won’t make it.
As for the residents, tourists, and other denizens in the Keys, I’ve been following some of them on social media. There are basically three types. The smart ones, who recognize how dangerous this situation is, and are preparing their abodes, packing up, and getting out of the islands as we speak. The panickers who have never been in such a storm and have no clue about what to do. And the deniers, who believe they know more than anyone else, the storm will turn away, or they will somehow have the superhuman strength to make it through unscathed and will point and laugh at everyone else for making a big deal out of some rain and wind. May this idiots rest in peace.
Personally, I’ve been in enough hurricanes, never a cat 5, but enough bad ones to know when to get the shit out of dodge and this is one of those. Anyone who stays behind, assuming they will be allowed, deserves whatever fate awaits them. This storm is not to be taken lightly. It’s a near perfect set up. It appears to heading along the path of least resistance and though it may lose some strength as it gets closer to the Keys, it will still cause significant damage. Yes, it may turn at the last moment, it may go south across Cuba, but for now, all signs point to the Keys getting impacted.
Up here in the mountains of the walking dead, nobody is paying any attention to Irma. It is meaningless to them and understandably so. Hurricanes don’t hit here very often but have affected this place in the past. But for me this is personal. Key West, the Keys, and Florida are still home. Even though I moved to Hawaii, I still consider Key West the place where I would prefer to live. And it’s not fun to be sitting 1200 miles away watching as one’s favorite place on the planet is about to get devastated.
I came real close to returning earlier in the summer. I had a boat I really liked down in Florida and was about ready to pull the trigger when a certain relative decided to fall and break a hip. Said relative is doing fine by the way and I am free once again to leave at my digression and pursue my own life. And in fact, the very same boat is still for sale, and again, I was ready to take the plunge, when Irma appeared. Now, I can do nothing except sit here and wait.
A full on hit to the Keys and south Florida will pretty much destroy any notion of living on a boat for awhile. If the damage is extensive in the islands, many who do live there may not be able to return. The corporate dictators may spin the laws, say it’s too dangerous for individual buildings, or boats, or rv’s, and take control of who may or may not reside in the islands. Another opportunity to kick out those of us who love the Keys, but don’t fit someone else’s economic standards. I hope I’m wrong but I could see it happening.
Insurance for flood and wind will be impossible to get. Building codes will be even more strict. Cleanup, not just on the islands but dealing with all the garbage which will wind up in the ocean will take years. The aftermath is going to just as bad as the storm itself.
So, for me, all I can do is sit, watch the news, and wait. I can still go back to Hawaii and it’s looking more and more likely. If the storm does hit, it will be a long time before any return to the Keys is possible. It’s a shame, but it’s not like anyone wasn’t aware of the possibility of something like this happening. The Keys have been dodging THE BIG ONE for years and now it may well have come.
To all my friends in the Keys and Florida, to any of you Fritter fans down there, stay safe. Get out of harms way. Don’t be some kind of hero staying behind to save your stuff. Save yourself, and your pets, the rest is just crap which can be replaced. Let’s hope the storm does minimal damage and more better times come out on the other side.