Key West didn’t suffer the same devastation from Hurricane Irma compared to Cudjoe Key and Big Pine Key, but the Category 3 storm did knock power out completely in the city last weekend when it hit the region.
While power is now back in most of the city, the Keys still faces a water problem.
The Keys’ water comes from the mainland through underground pipes, but hurricane-related breaks caused losses of up to 3 million gallons a day, which require rationing.
“The water system down here is the biggest challenge we have,” City Manager Jim Scholl told Gov. Rick Scott Friday morning at Key West City Hall, where he and several state agency heads met with local officials to discuss what Key West needs immediately to begin the recovery process. Everyone in Monroe County is under a boil-water alert, which is a problem — especially when people don’t have electricity to heat a burner.
Another big issue was residents who will now be displaced because of the storm, Scholl said. That will require long-term shelters. He also said it was incumbent for grocery stores and hospitals to be reopened and fully functional.
“You’ve got significant housing issues for a lot of your workers, and so we’ve been talking to the administrator about how we’re going to deal with that,” Scott acknowledged.
“We’re going to be partners here for a long time, and if you can’t figure out who else to talk to you on an issue you can come to me” to figure out it out, said Bryan Koon, the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
“I think we made a few calls to you already,” responded Key West Mayor Craig Cates.
The restoration of Key West’s Port is the top objective of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Colonel Jason Kirk, the Commander and District Engineer of the Corps Jacksonville District. The Corps will also work as FEMA’s engineers, and said they will also take responsibility for power, roofing and debris cleanup.
FDOT Secretary Michael Dew said he has crews on U.S. 1 and other areas to clear debris from roads and bridges.
As of 10:30 a.m. Friday, Scott said only 18 percent of the state is now without power, though Highlands County is still struggling with 70 percent of that region still lacking electricity.