Key West, Florida
After tearing through the Caribbean as a Category 5 Hurricane, Irma, one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic, made landfall in South Florida. By then its winds had climbed to 113 knots—enough to peel the roof off a building.
Irma shut down Miami and ravaged the Keys, snapping palm trees in half and wedging boats between houses. The Overseas Highway, or Route 1, that connects the Keys to mainland Florida was reduced to a long, winding landfill. Debris posed a significant challenge for convoys of first responders and utility workers who tried to restore power and some normalcy to the islands.
Cleanup efforts were led in part by the Florida National Guard’s Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Emergency Response ForcePackage (CERF-P), whose teams chainsawed felled trees to clear entry points, while Zodiac and Rescue One teams boarded abandoned vessels, noting their location and checking damaged homes along the water for fatalities or signs of life.
The overall feeling in the wake of the efforts was uplifting: Key West would rebuild.