Hurricane

Keys bridges declared safe for travel. But other obstacles remain for a return

Boats block the Overseas Highway after Hurricane Irma surge tossed boats, cars, sheds, and appliances onto the highway throughout the middle Keys, Septmeber 10, 2017.
Boats block the Overseas Highway after Hurricane Irma surge tossed boats, cars, sheds, and appliances onto the highway throughout the middle Keys, Septmeber 10, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

All 42 bridges that connect U.S. 1 from the mainland across the Florida Keys are safe for travel after a state inspection, Monroe County officials said.

The Florida Department of Transportation also repaired two stretches of the highway that had washed away during Hurricane Irma two days earlier — at mile marker 37 and mile marker 75 — and they are also ready for motorists.

Still, only the Upper Keys remained open to residents and business owners as the Lower Keys, including Key West, languished without power and cellphone service and food and fuel remained scarce.

“FEMA has arrived in Key West,” stated the Tuesday night update by the county.

Disaster Medical Assistance Teams had arrived Tuesday to set up in Key West at the Florida Keys Community College and the city of Marathon Park. County officials said they will become operational Wednesday.

Two distribution centers for food and water opened in Key West on Tuesday, one at the Sears Town Plaza in New Town and the other in Bahama Village in Old Town.

Two other distribution sites are in the works at Sugarloaf School and the National Key Deer Refuge office on the Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key.

In Key West, 80 percent of the roads are cleared of debris and it’s expected all streets will be passable soon, county officials said.

Also in Key West, the sewer treatment facility is now functioning. Anyone with running water or a bucket of water will be able to flush.

Hurricane Irma storm surge destroys Snapper's Restaurant in Key Largo.

“Every day, every hour goes by with more progress,” said County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

Florida Keys Electric Co-op, which services the Upper Keys to the end of the Seven Mile Bridge, has fully energized its main transmission line and all its substations and is working on feeder lines to the neighborhoods. There is a base camp at Founders Park in Islamorada for the contracted crews.

The Co-op reports about 30 percent of its customers have power and are bringing more people online each day.

There still is no power in the Lower Keys.

Keys Energy, which handles the rest of the Keys coverage area, is making good progress and expects to be able to bring power to Key West in a few days, officials said.

The hardest hit areas around Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key will take longer. There are about 300 downed power poles, which take time to replace.

From 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Key West will have water from stored supplies and an old plant.

There is still a precautionary boil water notice in effect for all of the Keys.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew will remain in place until further notice. “Any citizen out moving around at night will be stopped by law enforcement and will be sent home,” Monroe County Sheriff Office Col. Lou Caputo said.

Sandy Cove condo located in Lower Matecumbe Key in the town of Islamorada collapsed due to the storm surge of Hurricane Irma. Laura Gilbert, the daughter in-law of the unit owner, explains what she believes happened to the property on Tuesday, Sep

AIRPORTS

Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International are open for emergency response flights. They remain closed until further notice for commercial flights and general aviation.

JAIL

Monroe County has set up a temporary jail in Marathon. A local judge will hold first appearances every other day. One looter is now in custody. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is being helped from a large contingent of law enforcement officers from outside the County to help with security.

GROCERY STORES

The Winn-Dixie and Publix grocery stores opened Tuesday in Key Largo with limited hours.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

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