Officials warn those returning to Keys to be self-sufficient
Irma took water, power, plumbing
MARATHON, Fla. — Authorities will soon start readmitting residents everywhere in the Florida Keys but warned Saturday that resources remain spotty and that rebuilding after Hurricane Irma will take weeks, if not months.
Water, electricity and sewage are intermittent at best, Monroe County Mayor George Nugent said at a news conference. Homes might not be habitable. If residents can afford to do so, he said, they should consider going back to the mainland.
“The Keys are not what you left several days ago when you evacuated,” he said.
But the warning is unlikely to deter the anxious, angry and impatient still waiting on the roads to go back to their homes and assess the damage Irma caused. In the past few days, many have begged officers stationed at a checkpoint in the middle of the Overseas Highway to let them through, without success.
On Saturday morning, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said residents of the Middle Keys were allowed to return home, though residents below the Seven Mile Bridge will have to wait till 7:30 a.m. Sunday to return. The Keys remain closed to tourists.
When Keys residents return, officials said, they should be as self-sufficient as possible.
“Have all your supplies,” Mr. Gastesi said at the news conference, adding items like medication and bug spray in addition to water and food. “Supplies are very limited.”
Tents and campers will likelystart popping up around the islands as people settle in to rebuild their homes, and some businesses have started reopening, he said. Many retailers, however, are running onlimited hours.
“We had a Publix open till 5 yesterday. I never thought I’d be so happy about that.”
“We’ve been very lucky: 12 years since Wilma,” he said. “This is the big one that we’ve been practicing for.”
A curfew was imposed in the Upper Keys from 10 p.m. to sunrise, with a curfew everywhere else in the Keys starting at dusk, said Marty Senterfitt, the county’s director of emergency management. Four shelters remain open in the Keys and a boilwater alert has also been issuedthroughout the islands.
“Whatever you do, do not drink the water,” Mr. Senterfitt said. It’s “only for sanitation purposes.”