Florida Keys

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. 

Miami Herald

Federal wildlife managers in the Florida Keys have a message for residents: Please stop feeding the endangered deer.

Since Irma washed over Cudjoe Key Sept. 10, pushing a storm surge that submerged much of the Lower Keys including the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine, residents who have long tended to the deer like beloved pets began putting out water and food, fearful that saltwater contaminated foraging grounds.

MARK HEDDEN / MARKHEDDEN.COM

The Florida Roundup tackles a big backlog in immigration court, the housing squeeze in the Keys after Irma and how the storm may have helped sea life but hurt those making a living from the sea. 

This week's guests on The Florida Roundup with host Tom Hudson: 

Oxitec

The company that wants to hold the first U.S. trial of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys and Keys residents who oppose the trial don't agree on much.

But representatives from both sides said Thursday they are happy with the recent announcement that federal oversight of the proposed trial will be moved from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We think it's a good thing," said Derric Nimmo, principal scientist at Oxitec, the company that has developed a genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In some parts of the Keys, people are still salvaging what they can of their belongings, or figuring out where they will live.

In Key West, local and state leaders gathered Wednesday to send one message: they are open for business.

"Restaurants are open. Hotels are open. Every tourist in the country, in the world, needs to come back to Key West and the Florida Keys," said Gov. Rick Scott.

He spoke at an oceanfront hotel flanked by Key West officials and tourism promoters who were carrying conch shells and waving Conch Republic flags.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

People who call the Florida Keys home will be in recovery mode indefinitely. Monroe County Mayor George Neugent says marketing and advertising campaigns are underway with sights sets on just trying to get back to normal. He says Keys officials expect to have issues with adequate housing for 18 months to two years.

On the upside, WLRN’s Nancy Klingener – a Key West resident – says tourists are back, with some hotels at full occupancy last weekend.

Hear more about the recovery efforts.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The cafeteria at Horace O'Bryant School in Key West was once again a cacophony of voices  Wednesday as students at the elementary and middle school returned to their classrooms for the first time since Hurricane Irma.

Out front, Principal Christina McPherson was greeting students and the parents dropping them off.

"We're welcoming back 1,100 students into the building, and we're anxious to start the day and get everybody back to a new normal," McPherson said.

She said the full student body was returning — along with a few additions.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Before Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys had an acute shortage of affordable housing.

And the storm's most devastating impact was on the places that were most affordable — boats and mobile homes. 

Jerry Lieberman / Keys Energy Services

Even though the Lower Florida Keys took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, the storm did not disconnect the Keys power line to the mainland.

Much of Key West, at the end of the line, had power within days of the storm — much faster than many places on the mainland, which had much weaker winds from Irma.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In another sign of some parts of life in the Keys getting back to normal after Hurricane Irma, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm opened to the public Sunday afternoon.

Farmer Jeanne Selander runs the farm. It is home to rescued animals including a sloth, kinkajous, potbellied pigs and miniature horses. She - and the animals - spent the hurricane in the elevated county jail. They moved in after the inmates were evacuated at 4 a.m. on Friday before the storm.

Mark Hedden / markhedden.com

Almost 20 years ago, a little radio station from the Lower Keys won an Edward R. Murrow award — one of the highest honors in broadcasting. WWUS was recognized for continuously broadcasting during and after Hurricane Georges, a Category 2 storm that pummeled the Lower Keys.

But it turns out that effort was just a warm-up act for Hurricane Irma.

Mark Hedden / markhedden.com

As Irma was coming toward the Keys, I actually managed to get a couple hours of sleep.

This was surprising since the wind was already rattling the air vents in the room where I was settled on an air mattress with my husband and our dog. But essential because I had not slept at all the night before. 

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