Crews from AshBritt Inc. and Toppino clear storm debris following Hurricane Ian in Key West. CONTRIBUTED

Hundreds of Key West residents are still reassembling their lives and replacing their furniture after the storm surge flooding of Hurricane Ian, but at least the piles of storm debris, vegetation, seaweed and flooded home furnishings that lined the curbs in Key West are gone.

The city’s contract with AshBritt Inc. to remove storm debris was in place years before Hurricane Ian was a menacing radar blob. 

“In essence, our contract with the city is an insurance policy that no one wants to have to use, with pre-negotiated rates. But it ensures that we were on the ground in Key West within 24 hours of Key West signing its Notice to Proceed,” said Brian Thomason, AshBritt’s president of 

disaster response, who handled the recent work in Key West.

AshBritt subcontracts with Charley Toppino & Sons as local resources to ensure that equipment and personnel are available immediately, Thomason said. 

“AshBritt is the nation’s leading disaster response service, and we have a great partnership with Toppino down there,” he added. 

Trucks haul storm debris to a temporary storage area on Rockland Key. CONTRIBUTED

The first priority after a storm is to get the streets cleared of downed trees, sand and seaweed to make them safely passable for first responders. Then comes the clearing of household debris and vegetation that’s piled in the curbs. Finally, 700 appliances and large electronics were hand-loaded onto trucks for removal and disposal, Thomason said. 

“Knowing Fantasy Fest and Goombay were approaching, we worked closely with city officials to prioritize the downtown business district, Bahama Village and then established neighborhood zones,” he said. “It was truly a team effort, but we had the right-of-ways cleared within 21 days of Ian’s landfall.” 

So far, AshBritt has collected 23,000 cubic yards of debris and 700 appliances and electronics. 

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.