Whew….. What a difference 24 hours makes. Was that a cliche or what? Sorry. I am pretty much bushed, so you’re going to have to ignore the unedited writing. Before I call it a night, I wanted to capture the day’s highlights, what we know about Hurricane Irma in Key West — and what we don’t. For regular updates, you can follow the Facebook Page, Hurricane Irma Key West.
I’ll do it the way I did back in my editor days: What we know. What we don’t know. And, what we think we know.
What we know
Hurricane Irma struck Key West, FL, as a Category 4 storm, about 8:30 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The National Weather Service recorded 130 mph winds as the storm crossed the island. Irma made landfall at 9:14 a.m., at Cudjoe Key, which is about 20 miles north east of Key West.
- Storm surge: Key West was spared the worst of the predicted storm surge. At final measure, surge was about 2.5 feet, almost a foot lower than in Hurricane Wilma in 2005 — and well below the predicted surge of 5-10 feet. There are scientific reasons for the lower surge, not the least of which is that the storm hit Key West at low tide. We can be grateful for the moon today.
- Communications: You can’t get information from folks on-island. As of 11:13 p.m., Sunday, cell service to/from Key West is down. There is no internet service. Landlines — remember those old tech things? — are working. I’ve shared three calls with my Olivia Street neighbor across the street. Richard Matson and his landline have been a godsend today. Without him, I wouldn’t know much about post-storm damage. I received the last cell data text from my husband, Ed, at 8:30 a.m., just as Irma roared overhead. He was able to send one quick video before losing service. It may be days (heaven forbid, weeks) until cell towers are restored. We won’t have internet connection until we get electricity restored and networks sorted out.
- No electricity. Repairs will begin Monday, but as with communication services, it may take days or weeks to restore residential and commercial service. (That’s why you keep a solar battery charger with you. At least you can charge your phone to take pictures.) Priority restoration will be for emergency services, first responders, medical. Our home air conditioners will wait. Ditto the ice maker.
- Sketchy water: Water is an issue and there’s a boil order in effect as a precaution. Here’s the details from the Monroe County emergency management folks earlier Sunday evening: “Aqueduct is aware of the problem and will send crews out Monday to repair leaks, but need to have emergency medical services available first. Crews are being sent out to check and clear US 1 up as far as MM 34 (where it is known there is a significant pole across the road) and another reported washout at MM 29. There appear to be several leaks in the system. According to FKAA they do not appear to be leaks in the main line, but rather in lines that branch off from the main line. This will allow these lines to be shut off while water continues to flow through the system. But, it will take some time to repair.”
- Can I come home: No. Period. No. What part of no do I not understand? The county will give the go-ahead when we can start coming back. That’s not anytime soon. And, if you try to sneak down the Keys? They’re setting up roadblocks and you’ll end up camping in Homestead or somewhere equally unpleasant.
- How bad are things in Key West? Not as bad as we feared — and not nearly as good as we hoped. Although reports from on-island remain very limited, we do know a few things. Trees are down everywhere. At least a couple roofs are gone and one house on WIlliam (I think) got clobbered by a couple trees. So, yeah, regular monster hurricane damage. Surge was not as bad as predicted (see above.) Trees are stripped to trunks and nothing much is green anymore. There was lots of flooding in all the usual areas. Key West knows where those places are. If you flooded in Wilma, the chances are most excellent you flooded in Irma. In an X flood zone? You were most likely OK. I know for certain that the 1300 block of Olivia, where my house is, did not flood, not even a drop and it appears nothing around that area did.
- How’s my house? I have no idea. I know about two houses: mine and Matson’s across the street. He says mine is still standing and the roof is still on it. But for all I know tonight, the whole back side could be gone, though, really, that’s hyperbole. Lots of folks are asking me via my Facebook Page Hurricane Irma Key West if I know how their homes made it through the storm. I wish I could tell them, but it will be at least Monday and more likely later in the week before we get much news. I’m relieved about the 1300 block of Olivia and I’m willing to bet most of the Meadows and Old Town residential can feel the same. But I just don’t know for sure.
- Help is on the way. Emergency everything is headed to the Keys and specifically to Key West. Utility crews, medical assistance, emergency supplies. They’ll fly the stuff in first, then bring it down the Overseas Highway — after they check the bridges, of course. In the meantime, Key West folks who stayed on-island will figure out how to conserve water, eat sparingly, make do and help each other. Because there’ll be no going to new OR old Publix for a while, and certainly no delivery from Sandy’s (although who wants to bet against me that Sandy’s will be the first to open? No takers? Yeah, figured.)
What we don’t know
Crikey, this list could go on for pages. Some of the don’t knows I included above, and I’m not alert enough at the moment to list everything we don’t know. So, let’s leave it at this: If it’s not in the “what we know list,” then we don’t know. Those of us aggregating news and information from every source we can suss out will keep going over the next few days. We know you’re craving answers; we are, too. We’ll do our best.
What we think we know
Key West took it on the chin (another cliche, if you’re counting), but the middle and upper Keys took it in the shorts. The surge was far worse up the Keys than on our island. How bad? We don’t know yet.
The bridges connecting our island “seem” to be OK, but I wouldn’t want to get out on them until they get a thorough going over, which will happen over the next few days.
Picture and information spam: Oh, dear heavens, if you see a picture showing a shark swimming around the Conch Train Depot, do not post it. You know that’s going to happen, right. If Rob O’Neal’s name is not on the pix, it isn’t real. And, yes, there are going to be stories that are posted — and then news takes a different turn. That’s not fake; it’s watching news develop in real time. Like that Shark Creek Bridge story. The first reports, and they were from solid sources, said the bridge was out. Turns out, that once inspected, it was OK. Just watch the timestamps on everything you read. If the timestamp is older than a couple hours, on breaking news, then it’s probably been updated, corrected, changed. Be a smart information consumer.
And, one more: See “what we know” and “what we don’t know” because right now it’s darn dangerous to be saying things like “I think I know” or “I heard someone say.”
And, couple of personal updates
The Facebook Page: As of 12:11 a.m., Monday, Sept. 11, (wow, there’s that date again) there are 5,000 people following our Facebook Page, 4,500 who have “liked” it; we’ve reach 320,000 people with our posts and there have been more than 33,000 video views. Dear digital heavens, said Facebook earlier this evening, that’s got to be SPAM — and they promptly shut down the page. Took like what seemed forever to convince them I as real, my account had not been hacked and, pretty please, get us back up.
That page wouldn’t have the content it does without three amazing Key West residents: John Teets, Mike Freas and Jamie Mattingly. I’m pretty sure they don’t know each other, but they’re folks who share my passion for news and information, who love Key West as I do — and who have enough friends all over the place to be able to collect the information we need. Oh, and they’re digital.
Aggregating the news and information from every credible source I could find has been a joy — and major therapy. A joy because I have made hundreds of new “friends” around the world, translated posts and messages from English to Spanish and back again (thank you Google translator), shared tears with strangers and shared your lives. A therapy because the page demands pretty much all of my brain, which means I don’t have time to worry about things like the Cat 5s or my on-island husband.
I know my house is OK because my neighbor has a landline and he updated me at noon Sunday. That should mean the Cat 5s are OK. Ed had to leave them in the house Saturday night. Their food, water, litter et al is set for four or five days — and it’s all up high in case there were any flooding. So, I suspect that the five cats will simply think we’re out shopping and pretty much ignore the fact they were left behind. Cats are most wonderful that way. They really don’t give a hairball as long as you feed them and offer an occasional scratch. But, I miss them. Yeah. we are goofy cat people. Just don’t send me cat mugs or sweatshirts.
I think I know my husband is OK. I haven’t heard from him since 8:30 Sunday morning. And, while my brain knows why, my heart? Well, my heart kinda hurts. Just as does the collective Key West heart. Not knowing how your family and friends made it through the hurricane is pretty much the pits. (Another cliche. Sorry, but it’s after midnight on Monday and I getting silly.) If I don’t hear from him in the next 24-36 hours, I’ll see if I can get someone to go check on where he was staying. I know he, Sheila and David were in one of the safest places ever, and I know they wouldn’t do something stupid like walking in water with electrical wires down, but, yeah, it’s frustrating not to know. But as I told my mother this evening, I am blessed because I know my house is OK, I think I know my Cat 5s are OK. I can’t be greedy about getting number three.
And, with that, I am out. Done for tonight. Need some sleep. You do, too. Good night, my friends. Godspeed. See you in the morning.
Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She is in Virginia on a family errand with her mom. She was scheduled to return to Key West on Sept. 6. Clearly that did not happen. Her husband Ed and the Cat 5s are on the island — somewhere.
Linda, as a former broadcaster and current voice-over guy who winters in Key West, I can only say that your reporting is so well-tempered and calm. Nothing is, to use an awkward phrase, “Over-blown.” I was given a NOAA site yesterday that allows anyone to zoom in on any area of Key West to have a God’s Eye look at your home or rental property. The detail is astounding. I could even see the now-green pool in our compound. (Due, no doubt, to leaves cluttering the bottom.) We could even see the downed tree at the corner of Catherine & Watson and our landlord’s pickup parked in front of his home. You are committing journalism at its finest! To use the Brit’s expression of WWII, “Keep Calm And Carry On!” Here’s the link:
Thank you, Dick. Having the AOK from a fellow journalist makes me smile. And, YES, NOAA needs a collective medal for doing that flyover. It singlehandedly calmed tens of thousands of us. Way cool technology!
Linda, You are doing an amazing job of keeping those of us who grew up in Key West and love Key West in the know! Thanks for all you are doing.
Linda, thanks so very much for your info. We come to key west every year for vaca and we were so anxious to hear from anybody. thanks so much and be careful.-donna wikberg
Thank you for the update(s)
Thank you for sharing your information with the rest of us. We have heard so many conflicting stories. Praying for Paradise.?
Thank you for the information! Whether good or bad at least knowing is comforting.
Btw…just NOW saw a post from a resident that said they just put up free wifi at new Publix and he was able to make a post that way.
Thank you Linda for helping all of us find out about our island home. Although we no longer live in the keys, my husband & I recently lived there for 15 years on Bay Point. Now in Oregon, my heart aches for my KW family. If anyone hears about how Bay Point fared, let us know
Please, keep us informed of how we can support KW
Thanks again for the info which you provided with grace and humor
Wishing everyone in Key West the best. It’s our favorite place. Hoping you hear from your hubby soon!
Thanks Linda.. We are in Highlands NC and Irma’s winds are just approaching, altho at tropical storm level. We have a ground floor condo at KWBS. Have not heard whether the surge crossed S Roosevelt and reached the courtyard. if anyone has news we would love to know. Thanks again for the blog, GREAT JOB!! Ross Neagley
Thank you so much Linda! We are snowbirds who are so grateful for your update. We have been following Irma’s twist, turns and threats from Toronto. It is wonderful to know that she did not wreak as much havoc on KW as predicted. However we are, like so many others, waiting for news of friends who stayed to ride out the storm. Until then we will follow your FB page – again, thank you so much!
Thank you for this great info. We just learned from a friend with a working land line that our home in the 500 block of Margaret Street is ok — in fact, that whole block looks ok. A couple of trees are down, but no flooding in that area. Thank you for creating this forum to share info that the media is not providing.
So grateful to read this. Thank you so much. My brother Mark Faris is down there somewhere and although we spoke with him briefly on Sunday morning, we are anxious for an additional update….
Thanks for a great insight, Linda.
Thank you for your continuing updates. We live on Eagle Avenue but are on the Cape..watching, waiting, worrying..and can’t talk to our friends or neighbors…so having your posts is one of the only link we have to knowing and understanding what’s happening. I know this is hard for you as well, so thank you dear for your good deeds… god bless us all, we’re strong, we’ll all survive this storm like we’ve done the others. Lala
Best Wishes to All Key Westers aka “conchs” Both those that stayed and those who chose to be prudent. Hope someone with a video drone can do some overflights. I’ll be watching for Passover Lane where Bro Mike had a compound. Be Safe!
Hi Linda. Thank you so much for this. It’s the first news I’ve heard on how Key West did. All of the news stories are of the upper keys. My sister and her husband live in Sugarloaf Key but they took their RV and pulled it inside a safe place where my brother in law works with 4 other people and I haven’t heard anything from them since Sunday morning. This makes me pretty sure it’s just because they don’t have any phone service. I hope everyone stays safe.
My mother sent me this link… Im in Atlanta with my family up here,butt Ive been worried sick about my Key West Family…. Im a little more confident that they are ok THANK YOU SO MUCH…. Selena
Splendid update on the present status of the situation of our beloved Keys. Is especially loved the comparison of how Key West took the “hit” and how the upper Keys took the hit.
thanks for your input. we love key west and have been going since 1985. have taken our kids and now grandkids and LOVE key west. hope our beloved hubby is ok and just cant get somewhere to let you know he is fine. we have many friends in st. maarten h havent fared as well and again, we are happy to hear our other home away from home is good.
Good, solid, comprehensive reporting. Thanks a lot.
Linda, thank you so much for this page. We live in Key West by the Sea, and are anxiously awaiting news of our (quite a few) peeps who stayed. We came up,to our house in SC. You have been invaluable in providing news. I laugh every time you talk about the Cat 5s! I hope to meet you when this is all over. I hope your husband and friends are okay!!
Thank you for all your info. Our son & daughter in law lived in Big Pine Key…left Weds evening and are presently in Jacksonville, FL. listening to the heavy rain. Power went out last night but has been restored. In Big Pine Key they lived on Palmetto…
Again, thanks much.
Thank you for allaying the worst of our fears. Our home is just .3 of a mile from the address you gave for your home. We’re hoping if your house is intact and you’re not underwater, ours may still be standing and unflooded. Thanks again.
Hi Linda. Thank you so much for putting this page together. I live overseas and my parents stayed at the high school shelter there during the storm. I havenot heard from them since Sunday morning also and was wondering if you have any information on the people who stayed at the shelter? Have they all gone? I know cell towers are down and there is no power but just like you.. I am anxiously waiting to hear that they are ok. I have tried to call the Red Cross and see if someonr could possibly stop by there house there to check in them but no answer. Thank you.
I haven’t heard about individuals, but I do know they are keeping the high school open indefinitely for folks who need to stay. And, I take that to mean that there are no unexpected bad things. But Key West is without water, sewer and electric right now, so I am sure it’s a challenge in the shelter. As soon as I know anything about wellness checks, I’ll post on the Facebook page.
Thank you for all this info. It is much appreciated. We are only 2 weeks a year since 1990, but we love our timeshare and the friends we have made over the years. We were praying very hard for all that call Key West home.
Thoroughly enjoyed your post! Thanks so much for sharing. You provided most needed info. My sister and her partner are supposed to be holed up in Old Town. But no word yet.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you, how did the marinas do?
Is there any info on Big Coppitt or Seaside Resort
Really appreciate your blog post. There is so little news from Key West. Thanks a million.
Thank you so much for the information
Thank you, thank you,thank you, for the update on Sheila. I have been worried sick. You are a blessing!
Thank you so very much for all the good information, and your time spent gathering and sharing it. You have relieved so many worried minds…. I’m sure Ed and your cats are fine!
Such a wonderful report…thank you…we,are,snowbirds and,so were not there but our house is, on the KW GC. We pray it is ok…our little piece of paradise!!
Well written, i admire your composure and the smidge of humor in this time of crisis. My family and I and most of our friends are safe in the mountains, but we are eagerly awaiting communication with those we feel we have abandoned. We intended to stay to help, however due to pressures from our families we chose to evac. I left my home open with a month worth of supplies for some who chose to stay. But without a line i have no idea how they fared. Thank you for all your hard work. And yes, all of key west is family in my mind. Glad you could meet some of them during this. Key West is home, Key West is life.
Thanks, Linda for putting this info out. Very helpful. We don’t “own” in KW, but have rented for 15 years so we feel that we are part of the community too.
Thank you so much for the effort and information. My brother and SIL live on Summerland and just been scouring everything to figure if they will have a home to come back to. They evac to Tennessee. Both have lived on several keys and work in KW for years.
thank you for your personal report. I am hoping the best for you and your family.
Do u have Zello it is a way to talk without cell service
Thank you so much, makes me feel better about the friends that stayed and were watching sister’s critters. I bet her house is fine too. What a great relief.
Thanks, Linda. Solid reporting. (And entertaining). Judith Gaddis was staying in our place at 901 Georgia and she reported no significant damage there.
Thanks, this was so helpful. I am in Paris, but live in old town KW. My husband is there soo, so I sympathize! Thanks for doing it.
Thank you Linda. Keep up the good work.
I hope they are okay Thank you for the info. We were to move down this week to our new home in midtown. Waiting to hear from friends if it made it John Teets is awesome. We got to meet him last year
Thank you, bless you, and our prayers and positive energy are with you.
Many thanks for updating those of us anxiously awaiting contact with family members who chose to stay in KW. Very reassuring to know the storm surge was much lower than expected!
Send more viideo when possible!
For you, your husband, and your cats…my deepest good karma and blessings…for my favorite place on the planet, (next to my home in NY, and my 2nd home in Cape Coral)…KEY WEST…PRAYERS FOR FULL RECOVERY from the wrath of this storm, and minimal losses of life, most importantly, and property next …GODSPEED for all the WONDERFUL first responders, and craftsmen who will help rebuild.
Beautiful. Really. Informative, warm, sensible and calming. The exact right tone. Well done, lady. Now rest.
Thank you so much for your dedication and time to give us this information. It’s very comforting to have a reliable resource for those who evacuated and are standing by gleening info for what we will be coming home to and be prepared on the steps we will need to take.
Glad you all are okay. My brother, Steve Silva is there in Key West. Keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers
My sister is in Keywest no news since sunday morning around 8am. Realy worried the last time she was at Angelina guest house
I live in Canada and I cant do nothing.please let me know if you have news.Her name is Lyne Desjardins
Thanks in advance
Thank you so much for the timely up to date information so many of us have been waiting for.
Will be down next month under better conditions and times .
Linda thanks so much for taking the time to communicate all this. It really helps. We live on Packer and were/are concerned.
Thanks for your info!
Thanks so much Linda! We’ve been worried sick about our son, who stayed in his apt on Atlantic Ave (southern shore of the island), 10 feet from the beach. This is very helpful.
Wow Linda! What an awesome job you’ve been doing to keep us in the loop. We live at Washington and Reynolds and will be limping back to KW the first week of October. Anything we can do or bring to you, please do not hesitate to ask.
Again, thanks for being you and doing everything you do!
Thanks for the info. So appreciated
Thank you for such a detailed and helpful update, Linda. And thank you John Teets! We are thinking of you!
Thank you for your fantastic and very thoughtful update. Much appreciated.:)
Thank you for the update! Happy that first reports don’t indicate too much damage. I am not a resident, but a 2 or 3 times a year visitor since 1980. My wife and I were scheduled to be in beautiful Key West this week. Hope the Cat 5s are doing well and no damage to your home.
Joe and Nancy
Excellent reporting….need more level headed, honest (with a touch of humor) like you. Thank you for taking the time to update. We are scheduled back on Oct 8 and expect all will be in decent shape by then. We live in Banyan Court opposite the Weston parking garage. And yes, I do know it is Margaritaville now. Give me a break, as I am still adjusting from calling it the Hilton.
LOL! I do the same thing! And, it will always be the White Street Pier, even though Ed Knight is a gem
this is excellent info and so well done Linda. Thank you!
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for this information. We are Key West homeowners living in Virginia as well. There has been little to no news of Key West on the regular news channels and we are so very relieved to hear your report. Thank you again. Praying your husband is okay.
Your updates on the Keys are very helpful. Thank you. I hope you and your family are safe and well.
As an animal lover and responsible pet owner and pet parent, I was disappointed to read what appears to describe you and your husband left your five cats home alone during a Cat 5 hurricane. Please tell me this is not true. The staff at the Hemingway house did the right thing by staying to protect their cats.
Do you have trustworthy neighbors who can check on your house and your cats? Cats sense storms and are sensitive to drops in barometric pressure and high winds and they are probably pretty scared right now.
I would never ever in a million years leave my pets behind. Well, I guess at least you didn’t leave them outside. I have been to the Keys and know it gets hot and humid. How do you think they are doing inside the house without any AC?
I do hope all turns out well.
Stay safe and Take Care
Wonderful post! Thanks!
Linda, thank you! My husband and I own a home in Truman Annex, but are up in Maryland so it has been so frustrating trying to find out anything about how Key West fared. Your blog is the best thing out there right now for the KW diaspora.
Thank you, Thank you for your FB page and this recap!! My mother and her friends decided to stay and ride it out in Key West leaving her daughters in Texas worried about them. So if anyone sees a lady out walking her big black and white great Dane, Maggie let her know her daughters are thinking about them and praying for a quick recovery for yalls Island Paradise!
Thanks for writing and informing me on the conditions in Keywest. We live on Simonton but currently in Pennsylvania.
Please continue with updates, I’ll be waiting.
Thanks so much. We are on the corner of Olivia and Eisenhower. Sounds like we must be OK.
Thank you for this most informative report.
From: Dude’s Sister, Illinois (Adam DUDE, aka CatManDude with FKSPCA – who stayed behind to caretake many island cats.)
keeping ears open…
Thank you for keeping everyone in the loop. Glad I found you! Former Key West resident and still real estate broker. Miss my buddies and that very loving community.
Hi Linda, THANKS so much for the great info page. So fun to read and be confident in the content. Mary Jo and I are at friends home in Orlando. Having an extra enjoyable time since Miguelito and his mother are with us. MJ is doing great and actually eating better I think. We lost power about 9 last night and wind is still howling but the worst will be over here by daylight. Thanks again and we’ll look forward to seeing you and Ed back on the rock. Doug Brown
Thanks again. Hoping by the time you read this you’ve heard from your hubby.
Bless you Linda. Praying for Ed.
Linda, we have never met but you know friends of our who live on Olivia St. We are in Indiana for the summer but your blog and the FB page have brought so much comfort to us as we watch what’s happening to our home, friends, and neighbors on our precious island. I hope when we all return – whenever that may be – I have the chance to meet you and thank you in person.