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Florida Keys Residents Wait To Return And Rebuild In Irma’s Wake
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Florida Keys Residents Wait To Return And Rebuild In Irma’s Wake

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Following Hurricane Irma’s ravaging, residents of the Florida Keys are eager to return to their homes and daily routines. NBC News reports that a glimpse at recovery may be a week away, as they wait for electricity to turn back on. And that may be a generous timeline for many of the more disadvantaged residents.

According to NBC News, the hurricane destroyed about 25% of homes on the Keys and damaged another 65%. About 7,000 residents remained on the island chain during the storm and may not have running water, sewer service, and cellphone reception for weeks. Once they do rebuild, the costs could pose a significant financial burden. The cost of a simple window replacement can add up to $300 to $700 on average — and that’s just for one small piece of the home.

“It was like a nuclear bomb,” Cudjoe Key resident Bryan Holley said in a statement to NBC News about the day that Irma made landfall. “It’s gonna take months, maybe years to get this cleaned up.”

According to a report by NPR, mobile home communities suffered the worst of the damage, with trailers completely flipped over. Residents lives were also flipped. According to the National Association of Home Builders, bathroom remodels account for 78% of renovation requests, making it the most requested job. Repair workers will now reach far beyond the average request as they are called to rebuild the islands.

The islands are hardly accessible by car, and NPR reports that many residents may still need to be evacuated to gain access to electricity. NBC News reports that some roadways are damaged and unusable, but the 42 bridges that connect the keys are likely in passable condition. Certain sections of U.S. 1 are closed off, but crews are working this week to repair the roads.

NPR reports that Representative Carlos Curbelo called for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and that “it’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done and this community’s going to need a lot of support,” and month to month emergency coverage will not be enough. He also said that the islands will need a clear logistical plan to receive basic goods and services.

“To see the Florida Keys dark so to speak, as such a vibrant exciting part of our country that I’m blessed to represent,” Curbelo said, according to NPR. “To just see everything at a standstill, and Key West as a ghost town, that was very striking for me.”

Rebuilding may pose logistical challenges that local governments will need to prepare for, since 98% of private residential buildings in the United States are in permit-issuing regions. To understand the extent of the rebuilding requirements, Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio toured the keys from a Coast Guard C-130, according to Local 10. The National Guard is also present on the islands.

For now, it’s impossible to estimate the full extent of the damage. However, it’s clear that Florida will be rebuilding for years to come.