Florida Keys

Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald

Before Sept. 10, the last Category 4 storm to cross the Florida Keys was Donna in 1960 — 57 years ago.

"A community loses its institutional knowledge over that time," said Martin Senterfitt, Monroe County director of emergency management. "And we start replacing it with knowledge of Category 1s and tropical storms and we start forgetting just how bad a storm can be."

Senterfitt, and everybody else in the Keys, now has direct experience of how a major hurricane can impact the low-lying island chain. Irma destroyed hundreds of homes and caused major damage to thousands more.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Keys already had an affordable housing problem, before Hurricane Irma. Then that storm destroyed thousands of homes and is already driving up rents. So some government agencies in the Keys are looking at going into the landlord business.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A small lizard that lives only in the coastal areas of the Florida Keys is facing "a foreseeable and imminent death sentence" and deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to an environmental group.

Peter Frezza / Audubon Florida

As soon as they could after Hurricane Irma, researchers went out onto Florida Bay to see how the estuary fared after its close encounter with a Category 4 storm.

Irma-Damaged Boats Pulled Out Of State Waters

Nov 2, 2017

Nearly 1,500 vessels impacted by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters over the past month and a half, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Major resorts in the Keys are closing for months due to hurricane damage. The biggest may be the Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, which has announced it will close until next summer, letting go of 260 employees. What does this mean for recovery? And, what sort of services will the county provide to help those workers? We talk with Monroe County Mayor George Neugent.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

More than a million cubic yards of debris has been hauled out of the Florida Keys since Hurricane Irma — but there’s still enough wreckage along the sides of the roads to make trick-or-treating a scary prospect in some neighborhoods. And not in a good way.

So Monroe County came up with an alternative: Two debris-free trick-or-treat parties at county parks, one in Bay Point in the Lower Keys and one in Key Largo.

Key Deer Poacher To Serve Federal Time

Oct 31, 2017
FWC

One of two men caught illegally poaching three endangered Key deer was sentenced Tuesday to 12 months in federal custody. The other received supervised release for a year.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez handed down the sentences to Eric Damas Acosta, 18, who received the prison term plus two years of supervised release after he gets out; and Tumani Anthony Young, 23, who received 12 months of supervised release with electronic monitoring. They were in federal court on Simonton Street in Key West.

City of Key West

Local governments in the Keys are challenging residents to document the especially high tides of autumn with a "king tide photo challenge."

High tides from Nov. 3-7 are expected to reach more than 2 feet above sea level, according to a press release from the city of Key West. Winds are expected to push the tides even higher along the northeast sides of the Keys.

"Building a photographic library of current flood conditions due to natural events, like high tides, is an important step to addressing the most vulnerable areas," according to the city's press release.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Survey teams this week completed an assessment of the condition of the Keys reef tract, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.

"It's very much like what's observable on land," said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the 2,900-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "In some places, the impacts are pretty dramatic and visible and in other places they are much less. So we're finding the same is true underwater."

Even in the same location, the hurricane's impacts differ.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The endangered Key deer herd was already coming out of a tough year — the herd lost more than 100 animals to New World screwworm.

So when the eye of Hurricane Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 storm, wildlife managers were worried. The Lower Keys is also the only place on the planet where Key deer live.

But recently completed population surveys came up with good news, said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys, including Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

Darrick Akey

After Hurricane Irma, the iconic "Welcome to Key West" sign that greets drivers who reach the Southernmost city via US 1 mysteriously disappeared.

It was reportedly spotted on the ground right after the storm — but then was gone.

Thursday morning, a couple showed up at the Key West Express ferry docks in Fort Myers, wanting to ship cargo to the island, according to a post on the ferry's Facebook page.

The ferry company agreed to take it back home where it arrived on Thursday, greeted by Key West police officers.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Monroe County released a preliminary damage assessment of residential structures in the unincorporated parts of the county Wednesday. 

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