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The Key West Mystique

Key West Island News


Key West Island News connects Key West residents and friends of the island, fosters our One Human Family culture and advances understanding of shared goals for our island community

Hurricane Irma: 9-13-17: The Cat 5s and their dad report from Key West

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


Key West Island News

Key West Artist Richard Matson. Photo taken in early 2017 before Hurricane Irma.

Key West Island News

Fort Zach park ranger Ed Cunningham. Photo taken in early 2017 before Hurricane Irma.

Nothing like imagining Ed Cunningham and Richard Matson wandering around Key West looking for ice so they can make a vodka martini. But that’s the headline from “my boys” as they camp-a-cane in The Meadows today.

Although I knew he was OK because there’d been several “sightings” earlier in the week, today is the first chance Ed and I could share the post-Hurricane Irma details.

Ed is a forester by training, a utility forestry specialist by trade, a storm project manager and now a park ranger at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Nothing makes him happier than hugging trees — and collecting cats. Everyone thinks the cats are mine. Not so. Just Molly is mine. Sarah, Jersey, Livvy and Michael all prefer climbing over Ed and he’s pretty partial to them.

He said to tell you that he’s got photos and videos during and after the storm and will post them as soon as he gets a decent internet connection. I told him y’all really only cared about seeing a picture of him and the Cat 5s. He’ll try. In the meantime, here are the two Facebook Page posts from earlier this afternoon. Lots of good updates and info.

Ed Cunningham reports from Key West at 2:21 p.m., Wednesday, 9-13-17: If you’re just tuning in, my husband and our Cat 5s remained in Key West for the storm. Our house is in the 1300 block of Olivia. Here’s what he knows:

  • 1. The city has set up a temporary cell tower right behind new City Hall on White Street. Folks are beginning to gather there so they can make calls. Service reception was decent, though not great. Cell service elsewhere on island is spotty at best, and the city tower doesn’t extend very far.
    2. ICE. Oh, my they’d stand in line for ice. But they’re having a hard time getting info about where it’s available, and when they do, it’s usually gone.
    3. We out here know a LOT more about what’s happening than the on-island folks. They get info from 104.1 and that’s it. So, all the things we know about electric, water, clean-up, damage, etc., they really don’t know. For instance, WE know that the water from the taps that they’re getting a couple times a day is “non-potable.” They don’t. So, as Ed said, “oh, well, I’ve been drinking it for days and I’m not dead yet.”
    4. It’s miserably hot and humid. But they’re making the best of it. Ed was with our neighbor across the street when he called from city hall tower. I asked what they needed most: Ice and some vodka. So, they’re keeping a sense of humor about it all.
    5. The Cat 5s have returned to normal. Somewhat traumatized by the power of the storm (and they, too are hot. Lounging around like, well, cats), but they’re back to being regular cats.
    6. Ed has been cleaning up debris and trees from our property and around the neighborhood. He spent his entire career doing storm duty for major public electric companies and he’s a forester, so he knows what he’s doing.
    7. I asked if he thought I should file paperwork for FEMA and our various insurances. He said, “Sure. We’ve got a broken flower pot.”


  • 3:20 p.m., Wednesday, 9-13-17: Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Ed Cunningham, who is a park ranger at Fort Zach, was almost in tears as he told me about the damage at Fort Zach. He rode over today on his bike. About a third of the Australian pines are down and most of the rest of the trees are gone or stripped bare. The new guard shack/entrance is fine. He could not get down to the beach because downed trees have the road closed. There ARE folks working on clean up, but as Ed said, it’s going to be a long, hard haul.

And, with that, I’m going to put together a post called “Information Dick and Ed need to know.” It’ll wrap up everything WE know so they can read one post. As soon as I get it done, I’ll share the link.

Keep the faith, my friends.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband Ed live in The Meadows in Key West with their five cats.


  1. Punkin

    Linda, thanks for the updates! It great to get news about Ed, KW and Ft. Zach. Our prayers are with you all.

  2. Rachel

    I know you keep hearing this, but I’ll say it agin, thank you. Everyday, I scour your site for info to update my parents with, who as it happened, were on vacation in Greece when the storm hit. While I am happy I didn’t have to have that “please get in a car and go” conversation with my retiree parents, it is really hard for them not to know what they will be coming home to. The satellite link was beyond helpful and all the random little pieces of info you post that we can play connect the dots with and thus keep our hopes up have been priceless. I have spent the last 15 years visiting my family in our Key West house and before I was married, I even lived with my brother for a summer with my Cat1 and his Cat2 thus creating a Cat3 home right before Wilma put our little house 4 feet under water. My husband and I were married there and my children now spend summers there with me and my parents so looking at all of the pictures you have posted make me feel like I am more connected to what is going on in a place I love. When I get back there, whether it is to help re-build or just clean up the mess, I will be bringing you a bottle of wine or vodka or my personal favorite, Captain Morgan, wrapped in a tiny pink tutu carried by one grateful lady. Thank you for your time, your heart and your love for Key West.

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Oh, Rachel, you made me smile this morning. Captan Morgan in a tutu? How smashingly Key West!

  3. Donna

    Thanks once again for this update. I’d love to bring you some NY Vodka from the distillery we are associated with when we return to KW as a token of thanks for keeping us posted about KW. We will be there in December and in February. Just let me know where to drop it off if you’re interested!

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Now, you, my new best friend, just captured my heart.

  4. bill

    I work with Ed at Fort Zach and you have a wonderful husband,one of my best friends. Thank you for the news your providing. I live at the corner of Eisenhower and Newton .wonder if Ed can check on a cat for me. He has my number or feel free to pm me thanks bill

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Don’t see why not, Bill. I’ll pass it along to him when we talk Thursday morning.

  5. Lori

    Try to see if Al Subarsky 18!year KW resident who plays at Ricks and all the local places has been spotted and is safe. His NEw Jersey friends have not heard anything at all and that unusual for him!! God Bless you all!n

  6. Gary Moreira

    Thank you for this! Our daughter lives on Geraldine near Ft. Zach soccer field. She did evacuate but needs to come home with her 3 cats and dog. Do you happen to know how that block of Geraldine fared? You probably would get a zillion requests like this so no worries, just a dad trying to help. Best of luck to you you’d in KW.

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Nothing specific, but holding on to basic reports that say things are much better than expected!

  7. Chaz Fisher

    I know it must be a great relief to actually talk with Ed, if just for a few minutes. Hang in there, you’ll be home soon! And thank you for keeping us all informed.

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