"" Writer's Wanderings: The Keys Post Irma

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Keys Post Irma

A foot of sea grass carpeted the floor of the Snappers dining room
after Irma destroyed the windows and let the water in.
The hurricane season of 2017 devastated many. Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. Several Caribbean islands. While we had heard reports of the damage in the keys, we didn't know quite what to expect when we arrived in early January. It was three months post Irma. How much would be recovered? How much lost?

Beginning restoration of the Turtle Club at Snappers.
While Key Largo where we rent a condo was touched by Irma, it was not as devastating as the swipe Irma took through Islamorada and Marathon to the south of us. The condo complex where we stay had not been severely damaged. The condo buildings were intact. The only structure sustaining damage was one of the boat storage units that lost its metal roof. A lot of the landscape had changed though. There were obvious spots where trees were missing and leaves were stripped from other trees and bushes.

Along the Overseas Highway there were still large piles of debris, mostly of large tree bottoms with huge roots but also couches, tires, pieces of wooden structures, etc. Some of which we would learn was being carted to the area from other places and dumped.

Snappers' temporary kitchen.
The saddest things we learned were of the hotels and restaurants that were still closed and needing repair. Along with the "No Dumping" signs were signs warning of the illegality of unlicensed contractors. We would also hear of the shortage of contractors and crews. They were stretched thin which made progress slow.

Our favorite restaurant, Snappers, was featured in a CNN story just before and after the hurricane hit. According to reports the restaurant was flooded with four feet of surge and battered by waves as high as ten feet. It sits right on the ocean side where the category 4 hurricane came ashore. The outdoor bar area known as the Turtle Club was completely wiped away.

An aerial shot of Snappers before Irma.
The restaurant was one of the first to begin serving the area again but did so by cooking on outdoor grills at what they could restore quickly of the bar just outside the main building. The restaurant itself  was a mess and its kitchen destroyed. The owner said he was mainly trying to provide a place of respite for the few who were just returning to their homes.

Eventually Snappers put their cook in a food truck and began serving from an "Irmageddon" menu. There is no dishwasher so everything is served on disposable wear. Tables are still set up on the outdoor boardwalk area and patrons are supporting the owners efforts. Still it is difficult as they cannot serve as many as before so staff has been reduced.

Carmelitano used to play from a floating platform dockside.
That is the case with many of the jobs in the area. The reduction in hotel space because of closings reduces the number of people coming to the keys which of course leads to a reduction in staff.

If there is one thing the Keys are though it's resilient and things will begin to take shape and hopefully be even better than before. Meanwhile, we will eat our Sunday brunch and Snappers and enjoy the music of Frank Carmelitano and the weather and the food that is still amazingly good despite the small portable kitchen it comes from.

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