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: Sept. 13-17: Key West clean-up. Tempers fray. Frustrations increase. Time for Cat 5 pictures

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.

09/13/2017

Internet trolls are like Key West iguanas. Not even Hurricane Irma kills ’em. 

You knew it was going to happen. After the adrenaline surge of that pounding storm; after we confirmed Key West was (sorta) OK; after we wore out our welcome with our evacuation partners; after all that we’re just fed up. Irritable. Frustrated. Belligerent and ready to pick a fight.

Key West Island News

Michael, or Mickey, or Mr. Mike, is our baby. He just turned one in August. We bottle fed him from four days old.

Where better to pick that fight than on the interwebbies? I noticed the belligerence escalating early Wednesday morning as those who evacuated started getting testy over not being allowed to come home. Some are copying-and-pasting a letter to Gov. Rick Scott demanding that he force Key West and Monroe County officials to let them back in. A few are shouting in capital letters along the lines of how “no one will ever evacuate again” and “off with their heads.”

Others are taking to broadsiding the national media — with some significant justification I agree — for grossly inaccurate, clickbait headlines and reporting that clearly don’t have a clue where Key West is. I admit to posting this comment this morning on my personal Facebook Page: “I just read a romanticized purple prose piece from the NYTimes that pretty much made me gag my cheerios. And I love and respect the NYT, but gheesh….”

And then there are the bottom feeders prepped and ready to scam you with clever ways to part you and your money. (Unsolicited advice: Call your insurance agent. Call FEMA. Send money only to the charities you know personally. Do not under any circumstances connect yourself with websites and emails that promise to do it for you no matter how caring they sound.)

Key West Island News

Under the bed in their personal kingdom. The favorite place for Molly and Sarah. We call them the “old girls.”

In short, nothing unexpected. John Teets and I have spent a good chunk of Wednesday playing whack-a-mole on our Facebook Page with trolls and bottom feeders — and trying to gently work with real folks stunned at the magnitude of what Irma did to their Key West lives. We’ve both been in the news business for decades, so we know this is normal; we know it’s likely to get worse and we know it will pass. A week or two down the calendar and frustration, anger and irritability over the inability to control our lives will become determination to get things done and get back to normal.

Just not today. 

With that said, let’s do a quick roundup of what we know, what we don’t and what we think we know.

Starting with the big one: Today was the day cell service returned to Key West. OK, so it’s not great. But it’s there. I actually got a couple emails, photos and text messages from my husband and the Cat 5s. He was sitting in the parking lot behind new City Hall where the city has set up a temporary cell phone tower. Pass the word. There are still a couple of parking places left.

Know, don’t know, think we know. All mixed together

Key West Island News

Livvy — short for Olivia, the street on which we live — is one huge cat. She’s one of “the twins.”

The “what we know” updates demonstrate the frustrating challenges the first responders and emergency crews are facing — from an unauthorized landing of a well-intentioned, but wholly dangerous supply helicopter landing at Sears Town to a fire on Stock Island and challenges with electric repairs.

Electric service has increased to 10 percent in Key West and the Lower Keys and there were problems with work in Marathon that created delays. While progress is expected on Thursday, let’s do a reality check: Turning on your lights, much less your air conditioner and pool pump, is days away. I’d say weeks, but I’ve watched these specialists who do storm duty work miracles.

Water: FKAA is gaining on the leaks along the system. While the main line appears to be holding, all those uprooted trees have damaged feeder lines, creating what must feel like endless repairs. Like whack-a-mole for water as repair crews attempt to locate and fix leaks on private property and feeder lines.

No fuel, food, water and ice: For all us clamouring to come home, know this. There are significant shortages of food, fuel, water and ice for the emergency crews and their equipment. I get it. I want to go home, too, but let’s get a grip, my friends. That stuff belongs to the men and women who are going to save our little piece of paradise. There’s not enough for us and them, too. More fuel is on the way, as are other supplies. But again, not for us. For them.

Key West Island News

Jersey is Livvy’s twin and litter mate. The only way we tell them apart is with colored collars — and Jersey has rosebud lips.

No. You’re not coming home. No you’re not going to get to take your vacation next week. No determination has been made when locals can come back to Key West. The best estimates remain seven-to-10 days; middle- to end-of-next week. There are too many people on the island right now for the available supplies (and, yes, my husband is one of them.) I wish to heaven I knew a date so I could plan a homecoming. But, as my beloved grandmother, Pansy Grist, used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Eight deaths in Monroe County. Includes natural causes and hurricane related. Two of those eight deaths in Key West. Ten injuries in Key West. Thirty in remainder of county.

Finally, contact with my husband, Ed. He filled me in on his ‘cane-stay-cation and shared a bit of what life’s like on the island. He also shared his grief over the destruction at Fort Zachary Taylor, where he works as a park ranger. You also can check out those details on the Facebook Page.

Odds and Ends

Thought you might enjoy reading a column posted today on Huffington Post and written by a Key West resident. One of the many folks following our Facebook Page shared it with me. Called a “Love Letter to Key West,” it is written by  Lara Lillibridge and is a poignant and powerful reminder of why we each have our own love affairs with this island. Here’s a short bio, so you don’t have to go clicking around for it. “Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and also The American Literary Review’s Contest in Nonfiction. … Lara’s memoir will debut in Fall of 2017 with SkyHorse Publishing. She is currently a co-editor for an anthology of women’s voices entitled, Memoirs of the Feminine Divine: Voices of Power and Invisibility.”

Oh, and the Cat 5s: All are OK. A bit traumatized but recovering. The first pictures Ed sent me today were at my request: The Cat 5s. So for those who haven’t met them, here they are. Ed says it’s so hot they just want to lie around in cool places like under the bed and on the back porch. Not the best pictures, but they’re our babies, so we think they’re beautiful. I know. I know. Crazy cat people.

And, with that, my friends, John and I call it a good day’s work. Be kind to yourself and to others. We have a swamp of unpleasant tasks ahead. Best we tackle them together. As my dad reminded his five kids regularly when we’d complain of some hardship or pain: This, too, shall pass.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband, Ed, who is a Fort Zach park ranger, live in The Meadows of Key West with their Cat 5s.

 

 

12 Comments

  1. Sandra Bock

    Love your style of reporting and getting what I feel is real info on what is happening. Thank you and keep them coming.

  2. Tracy L. M. Dubensky

    Thank you Linda for your responsible (and entertaining!) reporting during and after this extraordinary event. Your page has given me the patience and strength to wait this out until those who have the skills and knowledge to handle these situations determine it is safe to return. Thoughts and prayers are with you, your husband and the Cat 5’s!

    Sincerely,
    A Crazy Key West Cat Lady

  3. Juan Benitez

    I was given the link of this blog around Monday, but never read any. This morning I started from the very first post.
    Thank for you all dedication and time, Linda! I didn’t see the option for comments at the beginning, so I sent you a Message on Facebook.
    I’m sorry your husband had to stay behind, I can’t imagine being away from my other half (whose name is also John, of course).
    Do you like Malbec? If so, after we’re all back home, you can count on a bottle by your door, I live only 2 blocks away in the 1100 block of Olivia.

    Cheers and let’s stay positive!

  4. Misi

    This was a blessing in many ways. Thank you so much for sharing with us

  5. Sylvia Darrow

    Thank you so much for your stabilizing notes and information
    I do hope Paul & Meredith Burkholdt, owners of Country Conch are ok! I have been going to their shop for over 20 years and have over 25 of his hand carved ornaments. Also, hope everyone at Coconut Besch Resort are ok.
    My family has been celebrating New Year’s Eve ther for over 20 years.
    Key Wast is very special to all of us,

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      With no reports to the contrary, it appears that they are likely OK.

  6. Tony

    You are doing a wonderful thing. Thank you.

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Thank you, Tony. It’s a labor of love and has reaffirmed my belief in good people.

  7. Linda

    Thank you so much for this URL. I have a home in Key West too but am not able to go back yet. We are just waiting for the ok. I truly enjoy your articles. Everyday I look forward to see what your have written to share with us.

  8. Debby Weaver

    Where was the fire on Stock Island. I had not heard that yet and our places is on SI. Thanks for all the information.

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Not sure. County didn’t list the location tonight. Will see if I can track it down Thursday.

  9. Phylis Sharp

    Beautifully written!! I lived through Katrina on the Ms Gulf Coast and fully understand what everyone, those that stayed and those that didn’t, is going through. I also have a dear friend in Key West now, going through the struggles physically and emotionally. It’s life changing. All need to be patient and kind, work together….and most of all, pray for strength. You can trust in God or you can worry….you can’t do both!

Related columns from Key West Island News

Key West Covid | Why do two years feel like a lifetime?

Key West Covid | Why do two years feel like a lifetime?

In Key West Covid escalated the trends that were already shaping and defining our island. Over the next eight years, Key West will complete perhaps the most transformative of its historic changes: the shift from local working town where a few folks always visited to a full-on tourist destination with pockets of locals who can hang on.

Avatar of Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham

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.

Pin It on Pinterest