Irma’s effects in Florida will linger for months, and in some places, years. This would include the Keys, where thousands of residents required evacuation after the storm — which made landfall as a Category 4 — made its presence known. The storm also zapped power to 15 million homes and businesses throughout the state. CNN reports that utilities have been restored to some residents (about 2 million), but it could take a week or longer to complete the process. In the meantime, the U.S. death toll continues to climb — including a tragic update of 5 nursing home patients losing their lives after struggling without air conditioning due to those power outages.
These additional deaths arrive following ABC News’ tally of 23 people whose U.S. deaths can be attributed to Irma, so the official total has now eclipsed 2 dozen U.S. dozen lives lost (along with close to 40 in the Caribbean).
For those who were incredibly lucky enough to escape with lives intact, the property damage will total in the billions. In the Florida Keys, the crunched numbers (so far, it will take a lot of time to finalize) by FEMA indicate that a quarter of homes have been rendered uninhabitable with 90 percent sustaining at least some damage:
As many as 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage.
CNBC reports further word from Long, who said, “Basically every house in the Keys was impacted.” And although many residents raised a ruckus about not being immediately allowed back onto the Keys (due to highway blockage and significant damage on and west of Key Largo), some are “stunned” to hear what awaits them:
“I don’t have a house. I don’t have a job. I have nothing,” said Mercedes Lopez, 50, whose family fled north from the Keys town of Marathon on Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the gasoline station where Lopez worked.
“We came here, leaving everything at home, and we go back to nothing,” Lopez said. Four families from Marathon including hers planned to venture back on Wednesday to salvage what they could.
Even when residents return to the Keys over the next few days, they’ll face “limited” fuel supplies, and cellphone service by AT&T is on the blink. The Lower Keys are also still “completely” without utility service for the foreseeable future, although the Upper Keys are facing a better situation with only 30% of residents lacking power.