Of­fi­cials warn those re­turn­ing to Keys to be self-suf­fi­cient

Irma took wa­ter, power, plumbing

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National - By El­iz­a­beth Koh

Mi­ami Herald

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.”

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