Early Sunday morning, Irma touched down as a Category 4 hurricane in the Florida Keys after many residents declined to obey mandatory evacuation orders that had been issued days prior to landfall. The system went on to slam the Gulf Coast and, as a downgraded tropical storm, continued to spread record flooding in northern Florida and parts of South Carolina. Although the storm has long since departed the Keys, some of the islands are so devastated — mainly, Key Largo, which is blocking access to those Keys further west — that Florida authorities refuse to allow residents to reenter.
Further complicating matters is how one highway connects the entirety of the Keys and its entrance, and that highway is impassible in places, which may — according to CNN — leave about 10,000 residents (out of a total of 79,000) in need of evacuation. Not only are the Keys without power to homes and businesses, but food and fuel scarcity along with water outages spell trouble:
However, the widespread water outages and low water pressure throughout the Keys appear to be a result of problems with smaller distribution systems, the authority said, explaining it had issued a precautionary boil-water notice.
Things were looking so dire that an estimated 10,000 people who rode out the storm in the Keys may require evacuation, the Defense Department said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott told CNN, “My heart goes out to the people in the Keys,” and he’s not sure at this time how evacuations will commence. However, CBS Miami reports that those who already evacuated are impatient to return to homes and businesses, and Reuters further adds that some people are very upset that they can’t return to “check on pets” that — for mysterious reasons — they left behind:
Residents who fled the Florida Keys in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s wrath were told they could not return to their island homes on Monday, news that angered evacuees anxious to get back to assess the damage.
Some evacuees who had lingered at a police checkpoint in Florida City all day fumed, telling Zabaleta they needed to return to their houses to check on pets and clean up. “Next time I‘m staying in Key Largo” one of them yelled.
Things are apparently getting pretty ugly at that police checkpoint, which only makes the Irma madness even more chaotic. All told, the storm has killed ten people throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (after taking forty lives in the Caribbean). Late on Monday, Irma was downgraded to a tropical depression, but the threat of flooding remains in many affected areas. Although the Keys are no longer flooded, there’s no telling how long until residents’ lives will return to normal.