No Running Water in Key West; Irma Evacuees Return Home to Upper Keys

September 13, 2017

Lack of water is the most pressing issue facing Key West as residents up and down the Florida Keys attempt to rebuild after being devastated by Hurricane Irma. 

Residents in the US mainland's most southern city have no water, no electricity, no sewer, no cell towers and extremely spotty internet service, says CBS4's Jim DeFede, who spoke to officials at the Key West Emergency Operations Center.

There’s no running water in at all in Key West, officials said, and residents aren’t even able to flush toilets. The emergency operations center has a few large water tanks and are rationing water, allowing people to use a trickle of water for two hours each morning to wash up. But the water is not drinkable.

"We don't have food and water in abundance, and all of that stuff's just gonna take a long time," resident Mae Skiver, who rode out the storm at a friend's house, told the Associated Press.

She offered one piece of advice for those who evacuated: "Don't come back. At least not for a long time."

(MORE: Irma Batters Florida)

Progress is being made on opening all of the island chain to relief traffic after residents and business owners in the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, were allowed to return home Tuesday.

Miami Beach has sent a team of 12 to 20 firefighters to the Keys to help their clean up efforts, CBS Miami reports. The Broward County Sheriff's Office has also stepped in, deploying its Communications on Wheels to Monroe County. A team of eight specialists will set up a mobile communications center that will allow first responders to coordinate with each other. 

Floodwaters surround Gilbert's Resort in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
As of Wednesday morning, all 42 bridges in Monroe County have been inspected and deemed safe and U.S. Highway 1 is now completely navigable after the Florida Department of Transportation completed repairs on two washed out sections.

Search and rescue teams have been going door to door in the hardest hit areas of the Keys, including Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key. Military personnel from the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln have helped law enforcement break through the debris and assist in the search.

Col. Lou Caputo with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office told Keys News that searchers have made good progress reaching many homes and have found no casualties in the search. They are expecting to cover about 90 percent of the hardest hit areas by Thursday.

Federal Emergency Management Administration head Brock Long said 25 percent of the homes in the Keys was destroyed. Another 65 percent suffered major damage. But Keys officials say it may not be as bad as it looks. 

“Things look real damaged from the air," Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said on Facebook, "but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott flew over the Florida Keys Monday and said he witnessed "devastation," a day after the 110-mile chain of islands was hit by Hurricane Irma.

“My heart goes out. There’s devastation. I just hope everybody survived,” Scott said. “For our entire state, especially the Keys, it’s going to be a long road.”

Floodwaters cover streets in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Monroe County School District is closed at least through Friday, authorities said. 

Frustrations were building near the entrance to the Keys as residents tried to return to their homes.

Marc Serota, who fled his home in Tavernier with his wife and two small children, said he won't leave again.

“This is why people don’t leave,” said Serota, after waiting hours in the heat Monday morning to return. “They’re afraid they won’t be able to get back and check on their homes.”

Debris from Hurricane Irma lays on the side of the Overseas Highway in Islamorda in the Florida Keys on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, as Hurricane Irma passes.
(Charles Trainor Jr/Miami Herald via AP)
“As long as I have shutters and a generator,” he told the Miami Herald. “I wouldn’t leave again.”

The heaviest damage appears to have occurred at Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, along with Summerland Key and Big Coppitt.

Key West may have fared somewhat better than feared, locals told the Miami Herald, because the center of Irma’s eye crossed the keys 20 miles east at Cudjoe Key.

Still, significant damage has been reported, including wrecked boats near Galleon Marina. The Miami Herald reports that large trees also came down on two houses on Williams Street, including one belonging to the late children’s book author Shel Silverstein.

The Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key, which took that full wrath of Irma, is littered with debris, including five pleasure boats that were displaced from a nearby dry dock onto the highway. 

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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