September 10, 2017 : At 9am EST Hurricane Irma made landfall on the Florida Keys with Category 4 winds. By the afternoon a storm surge of 10 foot waves hit the same area. Key West, Sugarloaf Key, Summerland Key, Ramrod Key, Little Torch Key, Big Pine Key and Marathon were flooded by the storm surge, and tornadoes were reported at Sugarloaf Key.
October 30, 2017 : Curt and I arrive in Florida to participate in a Road Scholar birdwatching trip on Key Largo and Key West. We had been assured that our accommodations were fine (we were moved from Marathon Key to Key Largo) and that the birds were back.
True, many of the birds were back but things had changed. I will talk about birds in another post, right now I just want you to see what it looks like seven weeks after a hurricane. And this is just what we could see from the main roads. No one ever hears very much about aftermath. It just seems like they got things cleaned up and life goes on and the golfing in Mar a Lago is fine, but it will be years before everyone is back to “normal.” I have read that people who had their homes destroyed when Hurricane Sandy went up the East Coast five years ago are still waiting for their insurance money from FEMA. (side note: regular hurricane insurance in Florida costs $12,000 a year, most can’t afford it)
So this is what we were told by residents of the Keys and this is a little of what we saw. Basically right now they are still trying to remove all of the debris. Residents are told to drag anything and everything out to the curb or the road edge. Natural stuff, like trees and bushes, should be in a separate pile from the drywall, appliances, carpeting, furniture, boats, clothing, mattresses, well…basically everything else. Some of these piles look like this. ( Forgive my photography. All were shot from the car as we were not allowed out and about in these areas.)Bulldozers come through and fill up huge semi trucks and they cart off the load to a site where it becomes a bigger pile.
Now this was just on the main roads. In our search for birds we went down a few ordinary residential streets. Every house has a pile outside their home. Piles of trees and vegetation are everywhere and we were told that it will be picked up last. Biggest problem, finding trucks and haulers because Houston is also cleaning up and a ton of truckers went there first. And for every pile waiting on the road there are many, many areas that haven’t been touched. From our car we saw lots of junk intermingled with downed trees or just stuff, someone’s stuff. The storm also brought in sand and we saw piles waiting to be ….. I’m not sure, put back into the ocean?
But all is not gloom and doom. Yes, there is a mess and it will be a lot of work for a long time. We saw a lot of roofers and a lot of tarps on roofs. We heard stories from people who have to rebuild from scratch but we also saw homes and businesses that were spared or have had a chance to clean up. We had a good time, good accommodations and good food.
And the birds were back.