Irma - The Immediate Response


On Sept. 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma and its Category 4 winds and storm surge struck with fury. From Ocean Reef to Key West, no part of the Keys was spared her wrath.

Some of our citizens lost their homes. Some of our citizens lost their businesses. A few of our citizens lost their lives.

All of us saw our tropical island chain and blue waters transformed into a mess of barren trees, sunken boats and scattered debris.

But we are the Keys. We are resilient. We know this is a special place worth rebuilding.

Monroe County’s Emergency Management Team began working on the coordinated recovery response five days before the storm would strike – while our visitors and citizens were evacuating to safety.

While Hurricane Irma was howling, the County’s makeshift Emergency Operations Center was set up in employee housing at Ocean Reef. More than 100 people worked by light powered from a generator.

As soon as the storm passed, Monroe County’s Emergency Response was in high gear. It was a coordinated effort with the Keys municipalities and many other responding federal, state and local entities.

On Day 1, the National Guard was staged in full force in front of the CVS Pharmacy in Tavernier, ready to roll. C-130s and other military aircraft flew into local airports with emergency supplies and personnel.

The Florida Department of Transportation had four crews inspecting bridges and other crews moving debris off of U.S. 1 and repairing washed out roadway.

Florida Keys Electric Coop, Keys Energy Services and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority had local and out-of-county crews ready to mobilize. They did an amazing job to bring back our utilities so quickly.

Monroe County’s Sheriff Office worked alpha/bravo shifts and got help from law enforcement teams from around the country.

Search and Rescue teams went door-to-door throughout the County to help people who rode out the storm in their homes and needed help.

Monroe County Fire Rescue answered medical and other calls and helped remove debris. FEMA sent Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to help fill the medical needs while the Keys three hospitals were not in operation.

The Red Cross helped Emergency Management set up shelters and food and water distribution locations throughout the Keys. Non-profit and religious-based organizations, with a small army of volunteers, helped provide meals, distribute donated goods and supplies, clear debris from people’s houses and deliver smiles and hugs to the survivors.

Many of Monroe County’s employees from all departments have worked tirelessly to restore government services to its people.

Gov. Rick Scott the Keys’ own State Rep. Holly Raschein and other federal, state and local representatives and agency directors came to the Emergency Operations Center in Marathon to pledge their help and available resources.

Almost nobody would have thought that less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma struck the Keys with such intensity that a cruise ship would be sailing into Key West with nearly 900 passengers aboard.

The Keys officially opened to visitors on Oct. 1. Tourism is the number one economic engine and our businesses need the customers and our workforce needs to get their livelihoods back.

But we also know that while many parts of the Keys have recovered quicker than imagined, the hardest hit areas from Big Pine Key to Big Coppitt Key will take longer to bounce back.

These hard-hit areas and the people who live there still need our help. And many people in other areas throughout the Keys no longer have homes they can live in and are struggling to find housing.

In Monroe County, we share more than just the Overseas Highway. We share a love of the Keys. We know we can get through this disaster and rebuild together. Thank you for all you’ve done and for all you will continue to do.