It’s been two months since Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys leaving vast devastation in it’s wake. So how are the Keys doing since then? Without actually being there, but following what I can online, it looks like for the most part, the islands have recovered rather well, depending on which island one is on.
Key West itself is nearly back to normal. They are still cleaning up debris and such but for the most part everything is up and running again. The infamous party went down without a hitch, but to somewhat smaller crowds this year which is not surprising. But it looks like everyone had a good time. Other events are happening as scheduled as if the storm never even showed up.
All the parks in the Keys have reopened after cleaning up but some of the resorts in the middle Keys took some pretty serious damage. Hawks Cay resort, built by HWSNBN is down until next summer. But before you cheer, 260 employees there lost their jobs and most likely won’t be coming back. A few other resorts had to do the same thing.
Big Pine Key appears to have suffered the worst from the storm and is a long way from getting back to anything resembling normal again. The island got scoured by the winds and storm surge and most of the people who live there won’t be able to rebuild. Everyone seemed more worried about how the Key Deer fared than most of the residents. (The Key Deer did fine, in case you were wondering.)
The boating community took a hard hit also. Over 1300 vessels were lost, sunk, run aground, or damaged. Many have been removed by salvage crews and the Coast Guard to their credit has offered amnesty to those without the means to salvage their vessels. If said owner wished to give up ownership to allow salvage and scrapping of their vessel they have a chance to do so and walk away. Sort of a get out of jail free card, so to speak.
For many who did live on boats in the Keys, they did so not because they wanted to live on a boat per se, but more because it was the cheapest option available to them. So said boats were in poor condition, improperly anchored, not taken care of, and not worth the cost to refloat and repair. These people will most likely just leave the wreckage behind and go off to some other place to start over again, none the poorer, but no doubt will get a few free drinks as they regale friends back up north of their harrowing escape from the killer storm.
For those who were true live aboards, and valued their vessels not only as homes but as a way of life, it will be a bit more difficult to start over again. For some, they may have spent years fixing up their boat to their liking, sinking money into it constantly, but despite their best efforts, a Cat 4 hurricane doesn’t lose too many battles with a few dozen feet of fiberglass, wood, and some ½ inch anchor line. Finding another boat and going back out to live on the water will not be easy.
In the meantime, as cleanup efforts continue, the old arguments about affordable housing crop up again except now, there are even fewer affordable places to live in the Keys, which were not too numerous before the storm. Government weasels and politicians of course are all gearing up for next year’s election cycle screaming about the need for more affordable workforce housing, but as we all found out in November of 2016, politicians lie about everything. Despite all the rhetoric, promises, and bullshit, not one damn thing will get done to improve the affordable housing situation in the Keys. In fact, it will only get worse. Developers will come in and buy up destroyed properties, people will get evicted because it will be too expensive to rebuild, and nobody will want to rent to poor people when they need higher rents to pay for higher insurance and cleanup costs. In more than a few cases, rebuilding may not even be permitted given the chances of another storm coming through next year, and the year after.
As for me out here in these other islands, I still feel some sympathy and sorrow for the Keys. Those little islands were my home for a way too short a time and I still miss it there. It was heart wrenching to sit up in the dead lands of Pa. back in Sept. and watch as Irma came across and did it’s damage. I was oh so close to going back but alas, it didn’t happen. No, it wasn’t luck, it wasn’t because the invisible sky wizard had other plans, it simply didn’t happen. Essentially, I was one broken hip away from being back down there when the storm hit. Blame gravity if you need a scapegoat.
As happy as I am out here in Hawaii, enjoying the more better weather, beautiful views, and simple island life, should it all come crashing down due to finances or some other reason, I would make the effort to try and return to the Keys. Yes, I know, there will be more Irma’s. It’s a chance one takes. Hawaii is just as vulnerable to hurricanes as the Keys are. The little storm which passed through here last month knocked out power across the island for a day. There have been some major storms in the past which swept across the islands. I don’t care. It still beats the fuck out of winter.
And props to those in the Florida Keys who weathered the storm and were able to bring the islands back to life again. I’ve been in more than a few hurricanes in my life, never a Cat. 4, so I have a bit of an inkling what they went through and trust me, if you have never been in a hurricane, it ain’t fun. The stress before, wondering where it will hit. The expense of preparing your property and getting supplies. Making the very difficult decision as to whether to stay and ride it out or skedaddle for safety, leaving all you own and love behind, and dealing with the aftermath. The damage, repairs, salvage, going without power, water, or the basics. At least in my case, being minimal made things way more easier, but still, a hurricane is not a fun life event.
But as I said, those in the Keys have been doing a good job with the recovery. Here’s hoping it’s a long time before the next storm hits.