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Old 10-11-2017, 09:58 AM
 
1,760 posts, read 6,476,493 times
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I love the keys and I'm heading back to Miami for work in early November. Are the Keys in a state where it's ok to visit or are they still in cleanup mode? I'd love to head back down, but not if they aren't ready for visitors.

I was in Key West in June, and Key Largo a week before Irma.
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Old 10-12-2017, 09:53 PM
 
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I got back recently, and drove the whole length.

> Are the Keys in a state where it's ok to visit or are they still in cleanup mode?

Yes to both. But it's not a good time to visit now. By early Nov, when you're planning, will be much better.

Right now, there are huge piles of debris the entire way down. Lots of residential areas are heavily damaged, and trailer parks basically all destroyed. Lines and lines of refrigerators by the highway. The water looks... weird. There is tons of debris in it below the surface, and a lot of people are getting stranded as they hit lines or large chunks of stuff. Bad smells in some areas as debris rots and sewer lines were messed up. Near BPK, Cudjoe, etc, there is little green vegetation- many of the Upper Keys and Key West plants are starting to grow back, but near landfall, most of it is brown.

To be honest, everything looks really ugly. This is a place built on its reputation for aesthetic beauty, and it does not have that now. It will take a lot of work to get there, and time for plants to grow. They look awful. There is some junk in the road that falls off trucks, although the highway is clear and structurally safe to drive on, including all bridges. In lots of places you have to slow down or swerve fast because construction/clean up trucks swing out onto the road or take up a lane for debris removal, or tree piles or massive roots are sticking out into the road on either side a few inches... enough to sideswipe your car if you don't move over. Signs are all leaning, and really hard to see in most cases if you don't know where you're going. Businesses have put up hand spray-painted signs everywhere, but basically all billboards are wiped out... so whatever used to tell you where your hotel or food stop or tshirt place was, or what island you're on, it's not there now. Islands and mangroves took like they were bombed... not idyllic as they once were to boat or kayak past. Depths and seafloor patterns have dramatically shifted, so it's not safe to take a boat out using existing depth maps - you will run aground.

Nearly all the parks are closed. The Key deer appear to be drastically reduced in number, or are freaked out, because this is the first time I've ever driven down some of their favorite streets, and I never saw a single one. Usually pretty much any time of day I see a bunch. They had a bad year between the screwworm infestation, and Irma. They do exist though. BPK residents have posted photos of some, looking skinny - they are having trouble finding adequate water and food. Fishing patterns are all messed up so not so easy to catch things based on the usual information. Many favorite tourist spots and restaurants are closed indefinitely.

The water is disgusting and I personally wouldn't get in it, unless it is in a spot that is clear enough to see straight through to the bottom like the old days. We have had really high king tides all this time too, plus some rain and wind, so it's very messy still. In some areas, like canals, it is red. In some areas, so dark it's more gray/black. Nearly everywhere, even where it's turquoise, it is brownish and rather opaque. And again, tons of stuff under the surface right now, not all of which is sanitary, much of which is certainly sharp. It helps a ton that we don't get much in the way of waves, so at least dagger-like objects won't stab into you with the force of the water like is happening on beaches further North in Florida. But for here, it's been a little rough of late.

By November, it should be significantly better than it is now. A lot of it still won't be pretty. But it will be more functional. The water will probably be pretty good. The debris mountains might be totally, or mostly picked up. A lot of progress has been made in the last month, where neighborhoods were totally impassable before, and there was no clean water or electricity or internet or cell, etc. But right now, it's still a disaster area. And to be honest, it really looks it.

Moreover, the campaign to try to bring tourists back to the Keys is insulting. There are not enough hotels rooms as it is for homeless locals to live in, so when hotels get booked up by tourists, that is one more family that gets kicked out of their FEMA-paid room for some outsider to stay who will pay a higher rate. That is gross, and inappropriate. I really hope that situation has improved by the time you come down. But I have to be honest that I really doubt it. Almost no FEMA trailers have been distributed. The local government has done nothing at all to ease the housing crisis. So how will they get thousands upon thousands of homeless people suddenly into non-hotel housing within 2-3 weeks? That ain't gonna happen. So you coming down will still likely displace a family. But it's better than coming a few weeks ago, or now. December would be even better than Nov. Each month should see progress made. But it will be very slow for housing, because there is not a single competent person who is handling the housing crisis, either at the federal, the state, or the local level. And let's be real those dummies are not going to get it together any time soon. FEMA also stopped paying for many people's hotel rooms this week, so a lot more local residents are now living illegally in cars and tents.

Every month you wait, it will look better and better. But right now, nearly all the islands look like a major category hurricane recently hit them - newer and sturdily-built houses fared well, but many of the businesses and homes, and nearly all of the plants, look extremely cruddy.

That's just the honest picture, from a local. Your call if it's of interest to you to come. I would say early Nov is borderline whether it's worth it. Right now it is not, by Dec probably it will be. So in a few weeks...? You'll have electricity and internet. Maybe you can find a room. You're probably shoving a local family out on the street. The water will be better than now, maybe even clear, but still full of small sharp debris and random large things you could hit with a boat. All the landscaping and paint jobs will still look ugly. You might see big flat brown regions where the debris used to be. The parks may be 50% open and 50% closed by then, I'm guessing.

Don't spend the same amount of money you would in the old days, for a disaster version. That makes no sense. If you get deep discounts, that's one thing. But don't spend $200/night and the same high prices for meals and tourist attractions, for a completely subpar experience. The service will likely be a bit lacking, the menus may be limited, the views will be dramatically altered, the things you can do here will be drastically limited. Your hotel may have leaks and mold.

You can pop open a beer with a lei on at home. It might not be as hot out, but it might look and smell a lot better than here.

People should take their time about coming to the Keys to visit, until the locals all have housing. Which likely won't be for many months. In the meantime, when you take a hotel you take away their place to stay, at least until FEMA trailers have been widely distributed. And we are nowhere near that now.
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Old 10-13-2017, 08:38 AM
 
21 posts, read 15,190 times
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Hey Starry!!! So glad you made it back....How did your house hold up? I've been thinking about you...Hope you are well..
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Old 10-13-2017, 09:05 AM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
10,619 posts, read 8,865,520 times
Reputation: 13751
StarfishKey...I swear you should get an award for your reports to us!

xxoo

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Old 10-14-2017, 12:28 PM
 
Location: Ormond Beach, FL
1,075 posts, read 1,044,319 times
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We had reservations at condo in Tavernier over Thanksgiving and have been notified that the building won't be ready.
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Old Yesterday, 05:32 AM
 
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Maybe an exception but Key West if coming in on cruise. Family were there this week. What they found was better than expected.
Getting tourist dollars will help the businesses and the residents that depend on them to live. .
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Old Today, 07:30 AM
 
7,499 posts, read 9,281,049 times
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We have friends that own on Cudjoe. Their places were undamaged (stilt homes, recently built) but the rest of the neighborhood is trashed. They are bulldozing like 40-50 trailer homes just to clear the land. An aerial shot of their homes was on the cover of USA Today, showing a pair of undamaged homes with everything surrounding badly damaged.

Keys need to use this disaster as a clean up/ clean out exercise.
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Old Today, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
10,619 posts, read 8,865,520 times
Reputation: 13751
Quote:
Originally Posted by City Guy997S View Post
We have friends that own on Cudjoe. Their places were undamaged (stilt homes, recently built) but the rest of the neighborhood is trashed. They are bulldozing like 40-50 trailer homes just to clear the land. An aerial shot of their homes was on the cover of USA Today, showing a pair of undamaged homes with everything surrounding badly damaged.
Thanks for this info!! Oh, brother.
Almost the same in Calif fires....3 houses left - all around them ashes of their neighbors! oh my...
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