Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's Not the Outcome We Wanted - Hurricane Irma

Blairsville, Ga (high 72, low 58)

We have been enjoying the very fall like temperatures here in north Georgia with a cooler than normal September.  We have had several mornings with temps as low as 42 degrees!  That is about to change soon, as we get ready to head to they Keys and the heat and humidity.

As I posted on the past few blogs, we have been trying to figure the status of the Fifth Wheel.  Last winter we  had it towed down as a permanent winter home in the Florida Keys. Irma made landfall (ground zero) as a Cat 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph, right on our little island paradise of Cudjoe Key.

Most everyone in the Keys heeded the mandatory evacuation.  A few people stayed, some even rode it out on boats.    I can't imagine why anyone would want to ride out a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane on a small island in the Keys, but some surely did.

The hurricane knocked out all the power, cell service, sewer, water and of course communications.  For days we have all been forming Facebook groups for each area with the goal of locating "missing" people who stayed, finding out how our property fared, and when we can go back. It has been a frantic search for information.

I was asked why we can't just call the owners of our community for the status.  We are the "owners" and none of us know anything except the few people who stayed and they have no way to communicate.  Most of the police and first responders even evacuated. This was a BIG deal for the Keys and people took it very, very seriously, as they should have.  No one that knows anything has any way to notify anyone about damages or missing people.   People are frantically trying to check on missing friends and family who stayed for the hurricane.

Something I didn't know but now assume it is available for any disaster like this, is that NOAA flies planes overhead filming the area of the disaster afterwards, giving people and governments information about damages.  They filmed the entire 100 + miles of the Florida Keys,  starting in  Key West and all the way up to Key Largo.  It took three days and of course, our section was last for some reason.    There were many news teams coming in and filming areas.  Cudjoe Key (the island) and Venture Out (our resort community) was filmed many times, but they never quite got to our house, so we really didn't know  the status or our boat and fifth wheel.

Not knowing turned out to be very stressful.  We spent hours each day perusing all the FB groups, news organizations looking for video, tv channels and word of mouth.  I found a lot of info and pictures of Venture Out, just nothing definitive on our property.

Last night while on our nightly golf cart ride searching for bears, we found our answer and it wasn't good.

We initially had been sure the fifth wheel was completely destroyed,  but then we started seeing pictures of rv's that were still standing and looked to be fine.  It allowed us to get a bit of hope.

Here is the link for the NOAA after hurricane pictures. It really is kind of interesting

NOAA Florida Keys after Irma  You click on the area in black, zoom and make sure it's set to Map Box Street under layers.

Here is what our lot and Rv looked like pre Irma

Here is what it looks like after Irma
The fifth wheel is in the middle, sitting at an angle.  The problem with the location of our lot is that the only thing between us and the open water is a single row of high rises houses (on stilts) and an empty rv lot on the water.  There was absolutely NO wind block.  It was nice on those hot afternoons because we almost always had a wonderful breeze.

We store our boat at the Venture Out lot.  We aren't even sure where the boat is from this photo.  It looks like the storm surge moved them all around. There were some large boats here.

Last winter, we discovered the coolest place from the past. It was called Perky's Bat tower.  We had no idea how old or what it was when we found it.  After researching it, we discovered it was built in 1929 and was to house bats for mosquito control. The only problem is once released, the bats flew off never to be seen again.

Here is what it used to look like

You can see here how large it is

This is what is looks like now.  You can see it toppled down. It's a shame.

So, now that we know for certain our Rv is a total loss, we need to decide what to do next.  I reported the claim a few days ago and I'm sure the Catastrophe insurance adjusters are going to be arriving as soon as it's safe for them to enter the Keys.

They had to make sure the 46 or so bridges are safe, remove power lines, repair washed out roads (remember, these are a string of islands connected by roads so you want to make sure the roads are good) and attempt to restore water, sewage, electricity and cell service.

They are making progress but only allowing property owners and renters back into the upper Keys right now and curfews are being strictly enforced.

We think we should head to the Keys once we are allowed back in. There will be things from the Fifth Wheel and trailer, that hopefully we can salvage.  It will not be a pleasant trip.  It will be hot, we won't have a place to stay, hotels will be scarce, and supplies will be limited to what you can bring.

The good news is that at least some of the endangered Key Deer survived.  Their food sources have been ravaged though and I saw a video in which they were definitely freaked out.  This guy seems to be doing fine though, don't you think?


  1. Sorry to hear about your 5th wheel although it does look like you should be able to salvage some of your belongings as it hasn't been leveled like some that I have seen. I hope the fate of your boat is better news. Everything is replaceable other than your lives and you have that! It will just take time to rebuild the Keys but it will get done. Glad to see that at least some of the deer population have survived.

  2. So sorry for all your damage. Not many bright spots in the keys at the moment.

  3. So very sorry about your fifth wheel. But very glad you guys weren't there. Hopefully most of the personal items can be salvaged and hopefully your boat will be okay. Such a sad time.

  4. We are so sorry for you and all the people in The Keys. Such a beautiful place and it took such a nasty hit. Be sure to take your time in returning. Make sure it is safe to do so...don't need to add any more stress to an already stressful situation.

    We were suppose to come to the Keys for 6 weeks beginning Oct 3rd...I'm afraid that will be cancelled until another time. But we know the people of The Keys are hardy folks who will rebuild...we will return when they have time to get their lives back together.

    Safe Travels and we are so sorry!!!

  5. Don't cancel your reservations yet. Which park did you reserve? Bahia Honda had pretty bad damage, but don't count the Keys out yet. The other state parks not so much. Once they get the power and water issues figured out, I'm betting the Keys will be up and running pretty quickly.

    1. We have 2 weeks at Bahia Honda followed by 12 days at Curry Hammock ending with 2 weeks at Bahia Honda. Checked out your NOAA photos of both parks and Bahia Honda sure doesn't look good.

      Just not sure we are willing to take the chance to head down right now. I do think the Keys will be up and running, but it just does not sound like the right thing to do right now!! But, never say never, we haven't cancelled anything yet;-)

      Really hope your park gets back up and running sorry for all the owners!!!

  6. So sorry to hear this Karen. I hope you find that your boat did manage to weather the storm. It will be a lot of headache but I know as much as you love the keys, you will be one of those who returns to make more wonderful memories.

  7. So hope that you will be able to salvage stuff out of the 5th wheel. Hopefully what looks like a peeled back roof didn't let in a lot of rain. Sure feel for you guys.

  8. So sorry to see the damage at your site . . . and all the rest of the Keys! We just a few weeks ago accepted a volunteer position at the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge for Jan-Feb-March. We're hopeful that we'll still be able to go . . . I'm sure there will be no shortage of work to be done!

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