Residents slowly but surely began returning to their homes in the Florida Keys Wednesday to survey the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma. Irma swept through the island chain as a Category 4 storm, bringing winds of 130 mph and paving a path of destruction.
Officials put the preliminary death toll in Florida from Irma at 16, though it remained unclear how many came from the Florida Keys. About 90 percent of homes on the Keys were damaged, while 25 percent were completely destroyed, according to the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Most areas are still without power and water,” authorities in Monroe County said in a Facebook post. “Cell service is spotty. And most gas stations are still closed.”
The first few days after Irma made it difficult to discern just how extensive the damage to the Keys was: a lack of communication to the islands and impassable roadways made it all but impossible to assess the destruction. Officials described the Keys in the wake of the hurricane as a “humanitarian crisis.”
Images out of the Keys showed devastating scenes: boats and debris lay among leveled homes strewn across the islands. The most severe damage occurred closest to Cudjoe Key, hit directly by Hurricane Irma’s eye. Big Pine and Summerland Keys also experienced serious damage. Some of the hardest hit lower keys remained off limits to residents attempting to return.
“It’s just a wasteland,” Ted Dominick, the owner of a small resort in Marathon that was completely destroyed by Irma, told “As It Happens.” “I mean, there’s boats laying on the highway. There’s boats tossed around like matchbox cars. It’s unbelievable.”
Mobile home parks, especially the Seabreeze Mobile Home Park is Islamorada, were slammed by the storm. Residents trickled back to the community to find their homes had been completely leveled.
“There’s not even a stick hanging up on the frame itself,” said Bill Quinn, whose grandfather bought the family’s trailer 56 years ago, according to NPR. “There’s not even a screw in it. There’s nothing.”
Search and rescue teams continued to make their way through the Keys Wednesday. A dusk until dawn curfew remained in place until emergency workers could ensure the areas were safe, according to Florida Keys News.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “But everybody’s going to come together. We’re going to get this state rebuilt.”