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We are now back in Georgia after a very hot and tiring trip down to the Keys. We felt we should go down to inspect our Fifth Wheel and boat, and to see if we could salvage anything. We left the beautiful mountains and the cool weather to go to the heat and destruction in the Florida Keys.
We (the cats included) were exhausted after our trip and were so glad to be back in Georgia.
We stayed with my cousin and her wife who have a home in Key West. Thankfully they only had minimal damage. They had evacuated to North Carolina and just got back a day or two before we arrived. They were generous enough to invite all of us (kitties too) to stay with them, even though they were still trying to get their house and property back to normal after their evacuation.
The eye of the hurricane struck Cudjoe Key (where our lot is) and spared Key West from the worst damage, and was lucky to have been on the "good" side of the storm. Key West lost a LOT of trees and some were real heart breakers, but for the most part they did pretty well. There is a lot of clean up to be done, but they are doing their best to open back up for tourism. Too many jobs depend on tourism and the people need to get back to work. More and more restaurants and bars are opening up every day. As of October 1st, Key West is officially open for tourism. A little beaten and battered for sure, but open for business. Cudjoe, Marathon, Big pine and the lower keys are NOT ready for tourism and it will be a while before anyone even wants to go to that part of the Keys.
We didn't do any sightseeing in Key West and only went to the places we needed to go. The heat was so overwhelming that it sapped every bit of your energy. I remember why we don't go to the Keys in the summer.
On our drive down from Tampa we didn't see too much damage until we left the mainland and got into the Keys. The further south in the Keys we drove, the more damage we saw. It was bad in the upper Keys, but once you entered Marathon, it kept getting worse and worse. The hardest hit was Marathon, Big Pine, Ramrod, and Cudjoe Key. The eye of Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cudjoe Key, but I think Big Pine Key had even worse damage than we did in Cudjoe Key.
The first days and weeks were bad for those who had not evacuated. They were not allowing anyone back into the Keys until they could inspect the bridges, and clear power lines, boats and debris off the roads. There was no power, no running water, no sewer, no hospitals, no fuel and no police, except the few that volunteered to stay. There were a lot of emergency management folks from FEMA, the military, the insurance companies, Red Cross and many more. There were linemen from about every state in the country along with about as many tree companies from various states. They were a huge blessing and without all their help, it would have never gotten done. There was free water and ice being given out and even free meals. You could get medical help, tetanus shots and there were even free veterinary clinics, which of course I particularly liked.
The electric didn't come back on for days and then just a little bit at a time. The upper Keys got their power back fairly quickly, but Cudjoe Key only got electric (and air conditioning) back yesterday, which was over three weeks after the storm!
We made a quick stop at our lot to survey the damage in person. We needed to drop the cats off at Anne and Jan's so we couldn't stay long. It was even more devastating than we thought to actually see it in person. We had seen pictures, but nothing prepares you for the real thing.
This is Spanish Main Drive. It is the road that leads into our community and the hurricane devastated the power grid. You can tell why it took three weeks to restore the power.
This is the underside of our fifth wheel. The emergency responders go around to check for dead bodies and mark the homes with the orange paint. Fortunately, ours had a 0 in the bottom part of the X which indicated no one was found inside. :)
When I first saw this picture, of the orange paint for some reason it really hit me hard and made me cry. It made it really hit home, I guess. This is the bottom of our fifth wheel.
Since our trailer was so spread out, I guess they felt the need to paint ours twice, once on the bottom and once on the other side. This is on the living room slide. You can see the microwave sitting on the top. We never could figure out how it got up there, but two shell magnets were still stuck to the sides. Those are two of the items we were able to salvage.
You can see the travel trailer upright next to ours. It was moved a little and the hurricane anchors were pulled out of the ground, but it appears to have survived. Of course we don't know if any water got inside.
We feel certain a tornado caused our damage because of the extensive damage to ours and not to the others around us. Hurricanes always spin up tornadoes. One picture I took shows where our frame was actually bent apparently from the tornado.
This is the front of our fifth wheel. It did not touch the trailer next door. His car even seemed to be fine.
We dropped the kitties off and then Anne and Jan insisted on coming back with us to help us retrieve anything that we could. They had already spend half the day helping friends on Ramrod Key and I'm sure going back out in the heat was the last thing they wanted to do.
One man in our community actually died from heat stroke and another was hospitalized for several days. You could not drink enough water to make up for that heat. We all felt the effects of the heat and could easily have gotten heat stroke.
Our community is a mixed use resort with high rise homes on stilts like you see here. Midrise, old trailers and rv lots. There are 659 lots here and I didn't see even one without some sort of damage. Some damage was obviously worse than others.
We found some of our things in the debris, some water damaged, some broken and some stuff was actually good.
If you look carefully, underneath the slide is our bent power pedestal.
This is one of the hurricane anchors Al installed before we left in June. He rented an auger that drilled down into the very hard coral rock. It was next to impossible to drill through and poor Al nearly killed himself doing it. The winds pulled them right out of the ground. The chains held though.
This post is long enough so I will stop here and come back soon with more of the story. Yes, we did find the boat. Sort of.
To end the post on a positive note: Meet Mulligan. She is Anne and Jan's pup. She cheered us all up every day.