MONROE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
SEARCH AND RESCUE
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. Crews are working to get these services back on line. Search and rescue teams have been going 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.
Col. Lou Caputo with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reports that they have made good progress reaching many homes and have found no casualties in the search. They will continue door to door searches of the areas they haven’t covered. They are expecting to cover about 90 percent of the hardest hit areas by tomorrow. The search teams do not enter shuttered homes at this time.
Contrary to reports, no 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.
“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
Carruthers, who lives in Key West, said all that was wrong with her house built in 1889 was downed shutters.
Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt reports that C-130s have been taking off and landing constantly with resources that include food and water. The Iwo Jima light aircraft carrier is 7 miles offshore and ready to provide a variety or resources and manpower.
FEMA has arrived in Key West.
OVERSEAS HIGHWAY: The Keys “Main Street”
FDOT reports that it has inspected 100 percent of the 42 bridges along U.S. 1 and they are all safe for travel. FDOT also repaired two stretches of U.S. 1 that washed away, at MM 75 and MM 37, and they are ready for travel.
FDOT reports that “cut and toss” operations were completed on U.S. 1 today. Debris removal operations to haul it away will begin soon.
“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 in Key West, the Florida Keys Community College and the City of Marathon Park. They will become operational tomorrow. More details to come.
AT&T crews are working to restore service.
FOOD AND WATER DISTRIBUTION
Two distribution centers for food and water became operation in Key West on Tuesday. One is at the Sears Town Plaza in New Town and the other is in Bahama Village in Old Town. Two other distribution sites are in the works at Sugarloaf School and the National Key Deer Refuge office on the Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key.
Fuel remains limited in the Keys. But gas stations are beginning to open up to the public, especially in the Upper Keys.
In Key West, 80 percent of the roads are cleared of debris and it’s expected all streets will be passable soon. Debris removal to follow.
In Key Largo, New York Task Force 2 has worked with the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department on search and rescue and moving debris.
In Islamorada, debris has been removed from all the side streets into a single path to make it possible to travel them. Debris removal will begin by Saturday.
Debris removal is taking place in all other parts of the County.
“Did anybody think after the epic hurricane that we experience that our streets are as clear as they are now,” Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. “We’ve been very fortunate public works and everyone in on this effort has been doing a heck of a job.”
In Key West, the sewer treatment facility is now functioning. Anyone with running water or a bucket of water will be able to flush.
“Every day, every hour goes by with more progress,” Gastesi said.
Florida Keys Electric Coop, which services the Upper Keys to the end of the Seven Mile Bridge ,has fully energized its main transmission line and all its substations and is working on feeder lines to the neighborhoods. There is a base camp at Founders Park in Islamorada for the contracted crews.
The Coop reports about 30 percent of its customers have power and are bringing more people online each day.
There still is no power in the Lower Keys. Keys Energy Service that handles the rest of the Keys coverage area is making good progress. They are expecting to be able to bring power to Key West in a few days. The hardest hit areas around Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key will take longer. There is about 300 downed power poles, which take time to replace.
The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority also has made significant progress. The main transmission line is intact. It has been plugging leaks and is now getting pressure from Upper Keys to Marathon. Numbers are not known at this time, but several neighborhoods in the Upper Keys have water.
From 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow, Key West will have water from stored supplies and an old plant.
There is still a precautionary boil water notice in effect for all of the Keys.
Citizen’s Property Insurance will come into the Keys tomorrow to set up a base camp. The location and hours of operation will be announced soon.
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.
Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International are open for emergency response flights. They remain closed until further notice for commercial flights and general aviation.
Monroe County has set up a temporary jail in Marathon. A local judge will hold first appearances every other day. One looter is now in custody. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is being helped from a large contingent of law enforcement officers from outside the County to help with security.
The Winn-Dixie and Publix grocery stores opened today in Key Largo with limited hours.
Sen. Anitere Flores was on the 6:30 p.m. conference call when all the progess was discussed and said: “It’s only been 48 hours after the storm hit and it’s absolutely remarkable what has been accomplished.”