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Surveying The Damage In Key West

Sep 13, 2017
Originally published on September 13, 2017 7:05 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So that's the situation in Miami. The Florida Keys took a much more direct hit from Hurricane Irma. Federal officials estimate a quarter of all homes in the Keys have been destroyed. Jim Scholl is the city manager in Key West, and he's on the line.

Thanks for taking the time. We appreciate it.

JIM SCHOLL: Yeah, good morning, David.

GREENE: Can you just paint me a picture of the situation there and how bad things are in Key West?

SCHOLL: Well, in Key West proper, you know, we were on the west side of the storm, which is the weaker side of the storm. So we were very fortunate, as far as significant damage goes. We have some properties that have some minor damage. There's a couple of businesses or - that lost portions of roofs.

But for the most part, the residential areas of town are in pretty good shape, structurally. The biggest challenge we had was many, many downed trees, lots of debris from the trees in this town, and almost every one of our roads was blocked and impassable following this storm. But as of the end of yesterday, 80 percent of our roads were passable. They're clear. We put all the debris to the side of the road, and we'll start the debris hauling here very soon, but...

GREENE: Well, that's really good news.

SCHOLL: Yeah, by the end of the day, we should be 100 percent there. But - and yesterday was the first day we've really gotten a big inflow of relief supplies, which is encouraging - you know, the food, the water, the fuel that's necessary to continue the recovery operations. But we've got all the agencies down here. Now FEMA's down here. We've got the National Guard. The United States Navy has an amphibious ready group offshore, and they've already brought relief supplies aboard. And then the non-government entities are here - the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, so...

GREENE: And I mean - and this is a good - I mean, this is a really important development because you were all but cut off for a number of days, right?

SCHOLL: Well, we were. The Overseas Highway - you know, there's only one road that comes down here, so that was blocked. And there is some road damage. But the Florida Department of Transportation did a great job patching the areas where there were some washouts and buckling. So you can get all the way from Miami all the way down here to Key West on the road now.

But, of course, the roads are not open to the public. That's for the relief workers that are coming down - the power companies and other folks bringing down help and supplies. And all we need down here is to get our power restored and the water running, and we'll be well on our way to...

GREENE: And then life can start to get back to normal.

SCHOLL: Yes - well on our way to some return to normalcy.

GREENE: How scary did this get? I know you rode out the storm on Key West. And where were you? And how scary did it get?

SCHOLL: Well, I was in our City Hall building, which is right in the middle of town. It's a brand-new building, so it was built to the South Florida building codes, which are the strongest wind-load standards of anywhere in the country. And this building did fine - no damage at all.

And like I said, though, we were on the weak side of the storm. Twenty miles up the road is where the eye made landfall. And, you know, the damage is much worse up there. But everybody here - myself and my team - felt very safe. And we're glad we didn't have the - any greater impacts than we did.

GREENE: All right, yeah, it sounds like the worst did not come to you, which is very good news - but a lot of recovery time that you have ahead. Jim Scholl is the city manager to Key West. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

SCHOLL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.