MONROE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT UPDATE ON HURRICAN IRMA RECOVERY
SEARCH AND RESCUE
Search and rescue teams continue today to go door to door in the hardest hit areas of the Keys, including Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key. Military personnel have helped law enforcement break through the debris and assist in the search. No casualties have been found in the search to date, said Col. Lou Caputo with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The search teams do not enter shuttered homes at this time.
We know that many people are worried about family members and friends who stayed in the Keys during Hurricane Irma and now cannot be reached. The major reason for not being able to reach people is the lack of communication capability in the Keys. Most of the Keys are without internet or cell service.
Monroe County is working to confirm casualties today and will release that information at a press conference this afternoon. The number is very small.
Keys Energy Services, which covers the South end of Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, reports that about 7 percent of their clients now have service. This includes power to the Monroe County Assisted Living Facility, whose generator had failed.
Crews are working up to Sugar Loaf at about MM 17. Keys Energy is expecting the arrival of more crews to work in the hardest hits area, which include Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key.
Power also is expected to go on line today at the Key West Resort Utiliities, which includes the sewer treatment plant.
The Florida Keys Electric Coop, which services the rest of the Keys, has about 30 percent of its service area. “We expect that percentage to go significantly today,” said Scott Newberry with the Coop.
The Coop reports that all mutual aid crews, about 40, are in the Keys. Most of them have staged at Founders Park in Islamorada, creating a makeshift camp with sleep and shower trailers. They even have nurses coming in to meet their emergency medical needs.
The main line is energized and the crews are not working to get the side streets power. Several key firehouses, government buildings, Plantation Key jail and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier all have power.
ROADS AND BRIDGES
FDOT will assist in inspecting the County bridges that are not on U.S. 1.
FDOT crews also are coming from neighboring districts to begin cut and toss operations followed by debris removal along U.S. 1.
Key West City Manager Jim Scholl reports that all streets in the Key West are expected to be clear by the end of the day. Crews will soon begin to pick up the debris that has been shoved to the sides of streets.
Debris will be picked up from residences and businesses too in the days to come. The debris should be piled up near the road, but not block the road.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay reports that it was a “good decision” to open the Upper Key as soon as the
County did. “We’ve had no issues, no crime,” he said. “Residents here are making sure of that, too.”
A 16-person law enforcement unit from outside the County is coming to patrol the Upper Keys, so County law enforcement officers can add manpower for the Middle and Lower Keys. There have been a few arrests for looting in the Middle and Lower Keys.
Re-entry is still limited to residents and business owners in the Upper Keys, to mile marker 73. Work is being done as quickly as possible to make it safe enough to open the rest of the Keys to re-entry.
Monroe County has set up a temporary jail in Marathon. A local judge will hold first appearances today, and every other day until further notice.
Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport are 100 percent operational, including for night time operations, for emergency response flights. There is still no commercial service or general aviation until further notice.
An Air Force unit with 31 people is staged at Naval Air Station Key West to control military airlift inbound and outbound. The crews can handle two aircraft at a time. And they have a forklift to deal with the pallets of food and water.
The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority reports it continues to make progress. It now has pressure down to Stock Island. Most of the homes and businesses not receiving water in the Upper and Middle Keys is mostly due to broken lines in people’s yards that were were ripped up by fallen trees.
From 10 a.m. to noon and from 5 to 7 p.m., Key West and Stock Island will have water from stored supplies and the reverse osmosis plant.
Water restrictions are in place. Water should only be used for sanitation purposes and not for washing cars, boats and houses for now.
There is still a precautionary boil water notice in effect for all of the Keys.
NATIONAL GUARD SUPPORT
About 2,000 members of the National Guard are in the Keys to help with communications and work at the County distribution points for food and water.
COUNTY DISTRIBUTION POINTS
Six distribution centers for food and water will be in operation today. They are located at the Coral Shores High School, Marathon High School, National Key Deer Refuge office on the Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key. Sugarloaf School, Sears Town Plaza in New Town Key West and the 4th Street parking lot near the soccer field in Bahama Village in Old Town Key West.
Contrary to reports, no comprehensive assessments have been done to accurately determine percentage of damage or dollar figures. Monroe County has one of the strongest building codes in the country.
Monroe County Inspectors have begun Damage Assessment inspections of the outside of private structures, beginning in Key Largo. They are operating out of the Murray Nelson Government Center. No inspections will be performed of the inside of the structures. This information is vital to Federal and state agencies related to public assistance.
The dusk-to-dawn curfew will remain in place until further notice. “Any citizen out moving around at night will be stopped by law enforcement and will be sent home,” Monroe County Sheriff Office Col. Lou Caputo said.
The Winn-Dixie and Publix grocery stores are open in Key Largo with limited hours.
The CVS Pharmacy in Key Largo opened Wednesday.
MARINE TOWING AND SALVAGE
Sea Tow Key Largo is up and running. All vessels, salavage equipment, trucks and trailers are ready for work. If you need assistance, call: 502-645-3578 or 305-451-3330.
Fuel remains limited in the Keys. But gas stations are beginning to open up to the public, especially in the Upper Keys. The Marlin at MM 88, the Valero at MM 92 and the Circle K at MM 102 were open this morning.
Citizen’s Property Insurance will come into the Keys today to set up a base camp. The location and hours of operation will be announced soon.
Cell service still is spotty and mostly unavailable in the Keys. AT&T and Verizon crews are working to restore service.
Now it is safe to travel throughout U.S. 1,” FDOT reports.
Mariners Hospital in Tavernier has opened its emergency room.
Disaster Medical Assistance Teams have arrived and will be setting up medical clinics today in Key West, the Florida Keys Community College and the City of Marathon Park. More details to come.