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: 9-18-17: Please stay home for a couple three weeks

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.


When your town’s paychecks depend on tourists, second home owners and vacation rentals, it’s downright discourteous to say “Y’all stay the heck out of here.” For sure, no one that gets paid to promote tourism in the Keys is gonna put it that bluntly. I’ll do it for them.

I’ll add “please,” because my mother suggests that’s a courteous thing. So. Please. Stay the heck out of Key West and the Florida Keys. We are flat out not ready for flushing our own toilets. Our ice is made with questionable tap water. The AC is uncertain and internet stutters like an old car. Oh, and that beautiful blue, green and crystal water you love so much? Not safe to swim in. Ditto the swimming pools, far too many of which currently resemble swamps, complete with mosquitos and logs.

Tonight, the government deciders said that on Tuesday morning the Florida City checkpoint would be removed and the Overseas Highway would be open for traffic. That’ll surely make it easier for residents and business owners to get home and fix things.

Delta announced today they were resuming a “normal” schedule Thursday. I talked with a Delta agent today (I am going home Sunday), and she said their flights were booked to the wings, demand outstripping seats. I’m sure there will be more than just residents on those flights.

It’s wonderful news that it gets easier each day to make our ways home.

It’ll also encourage thousands of the curious to come see how things are going. They’ll come, of course, with promises of helping and trunks full of things they just know will be handy — but that will simply create big piles of stuff that no one will know how to distribute.

I totally get the disappointment. Weddings at Fort Zach cancelled. Girls’ weekends gone. A once-in-a-lifetime week in paradise done for. Deposits non-refundable because you opted out of the travel insurance during hurricane season. No snorkeling, fishing or rides with the wind on a sunset sail. No late nights in the Chart Room or sound checks at the Green Parrot.

But, folks, give us a few weeks. A few is three or four. That’s all we’re asking. Just a few weeks to get our homes — and your vacation happy place — in order. Give us a few weeks to re-group our staffers so they can serve you without worrying about who is going to do child care when schools aren’t open. Give us a few weeks until the emergency responders and repair and restoration crews can go home.

As John Teets and I texted a few minutes ago: “No water, no swimming, smelly brush piles, beaucoup de mosquito and streets blocked by bucket trucks? The supermarket parking lot blocked off for relief helicopters. Yee-HAW, Margie. We want some of that!”

No. Really you don’t.

The folks who make Fantesy Fest one of Key West’s most tourist-worthy events are busting butt to make sure it happens Oct. 20-29. The folks I know who manage and staff vacation and tourist services are cutting brush, cleaning rooms, repairing vehicles, trimming and planting trees. A few weeks and you’ll be hard pressed to know Key West took it on the chin from a Category 4 hurricane.

But right now? Y’all please stay home. Some areas of the Keys will likely open before others. Contact your airlines, your hotel, your vacation rental company. They can help you decide when it’s smart to come on down.

If you really want to help, send money. Actual spending money. The Sister Season Fund, which has long raised money for direct aid to the folks who staff our tourist industry — and who are most likely to be unemployed right now. They don’t make money when things are closed; they live from check to check and tip to tip. And, they still have to pay the rent and the utilities. For them, Hurricane Irma is going to be a financial Cat 5.

As certain as I’m sitting here in my mother’s Virginia living room, typing this on my laptop, I am certain that we’ll be ready to welcome you back “home” by the middle of October. Maybe even sooner. Probably even sooner. Maybe in a couple weeks. We need you. We need your passion for our island. And, yes, we need your credit cards and tips. Lots of tips. We’re gonna love having you back.

But not tomorrow. Please. Not tomorrow.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband Ed live in Key West with their five cats, the Cat 5s. She was off-island for Hurricane Irma. He stayed in Key West.



  1. amanda

    @Alex – all of us who had to evacuate wish we had the answers sooner too. We wish they would give us a date, a timeline, something. But we weren’t waiting to see if our vacations were still happening, we were waiting to see if our homes were still there.

    Quite frankly, I don’t want anyone at Fantasy Fest either. Let it be ours this year.

  2. Pam MacKenzie

    The Airlines have been difficult in many instances, I gave full refunds for my vacation rental reservations but I had one guest who had insurance and couldn’t reach them, so she wanted a refund from me, I gave it. I myself have “loss of use” insurance and I am hoping my losses may be covered by virtue of the Florida “State of Emergency” status, it is an “official” status. I would hope the same should apply to flights and accomodations for travellers but I have found some airline Reps are acting rather dense about the situation. It seems you need to tell them why you can’t take the flight cause they are unaware of any problems…

  3. Alan Smith

    You mention non-refundable deposits for those who declined travel insurance during hurricane season. It isn’t just people that declined it. We HAVE travel insurance for our trip on October 12th and we won’t get any refund unless either the airline or our lodging says we can’t go. Right now, American Airlines says September 30th and our lodging says we should be good. So we are kind of stuck unless either one of those two cancel. Do we come down and bear the scorn of those saying to stay away, or do we stay home and lose our money? It’s a crappy position and by no means to I compare it to what people in the keys (and the USVI that we frequent as well), but they are not mutually exclusive. I can feel bad for residents and also feel bad for visitors that are in similar situations as we are. I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t. We just have to wait until AA, our lodging, or the authorities make their decision. It would just be nice to know sooner than later, although I know this is a fluid situation that changes frequently.

    We have enjoyed and appreciated your blog and Facebook updates. Thank you for taking the time to do this for so many of us that have the connection to the island, even if we don’t live there.

  4. Pam MacKenzie

    I have vacation rentals but I’m not in any rush to return, goal is Oct 12. My husband is flying in this weekend to check on things and to find out when he can resume painting Shipyard condos.
    I received my most obnoxious cancellation yesterday for dates at the end of November, this person explained to me all the search/rescue efforts that were going on and said that if visitors were to come they would be expected to live in camping-like conditions. I told her “visitors” would not be allowed in and that warning was intended for residents. But I guess that is not true. The Advisory from TDC is also wishy washy, stating they would announce a date to resume Tourism but also acknowledging that visitors would not be refused entry. I don’t think it is good for Tourism to let in visitors at this point.

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      I’m always shocked at the level of obnoxious among those who feel so “entitled” that they can’t see past their own selfishness. Stay optimistic. There are far more good folks than bad!

  5. Sue Smith

    Hopefully filled with optimism that you will be back on your feet soon. Your lovely island has been a source of joy for me for many years–I love the people and the Key West vibe. Take all the time you need to heal, regroup, and do whatever it takes to help you feel better. In the meantime, I will be saving all my money to spend lavishly the next time I visit your beautiful island. Keep fighting the fight, and know that there are millions of people cheering for you!❤❣❤

  6. Kayie

    It was just three days ago everyone was telling us not to come back to our own homes in Key West and now that we are here, it’s OK to close the check point, That’s absurd. And insulting..

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