About 12 hours after Hurricane Irma’s eye passed over Cudjoe Key, emergency personnel and supplies are already en route to the Florida Keys.
News organizations have reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott has said that U.S. President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration on Sunday to help Florida recover from Hurricane Irma.
The declaration will authorizes federal funding to come to the state to assist local and state agencies with response and recovery.
Monroe County Emergency Management has reported a coordinated airborne relief mission that will bring emergency supplies and personnel to help in the recovery.
The aid will come by military C-130 cargo planes and other air resources.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said. “Help is on the way.”
Expected to arrive first — reportedly at midnight — is a team of “combat air traffic controllers” who will be able to assess the damage to the airports. When the airport runways are deemed safe, the C-130s will be able to land.
The Key West airport is reportedly in good shape; however, it still has standing water on the taxi way and apron. Reports indicate the Marathon airport has debris on the runway and a substantial amount of water; efforts to clear it are underway.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission also has a small crew of about six officers who will begin inspecting as soon as winds die down to below tropical storm winds speeds. The crews will work from east to west down the island chain. The agency warns residents and “cowboys” from the mainland that nearshore waters are unsafe as many boats came loose, navigational markers are down and there is much debris in the water.
• Law enforcement is taking control of the top of the 18-Mile Stretch to restrict entry of non-authorized personnel into the Florida Keys.
• Three points of the Overseas Highway have been identified as “choke points.” Sea Oats Beach at MM 75 has had one lane erode and the other is covered in debris. The southbound lane is reportedly “buckled.” At MM 34 there is reportedly a large metal pole across Overseas Highway. At MM 29 there is a reported partial “wash down” of the road. The state Department of Transportation has said they will engage a rapid response contractor.
• There are no official reports regarding the state of affairs on Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys where damage is expected to be the worst.
• At about 5:30 p.m., Marathon City Councilman Steven Cook reported on social media about progress from the EOC on Ocean Reef south: “We are moving at a snail’s pace. But we are moving toward Marathon … Marathon took a massive blow. Do not attempt to come back … We love you guys. Please be patient.” No other official reports are available at this time.
• Key West City Manager Jim Scholl said current reports indicate Key West fared well. He said debris clean up would be the biggest challenge and that flooding was “less than [Hurricane] Wilma.” Reports have come in of some gas station pumps knocked over and low hanging obstacles that are a hazard to driving. Residents who stayed behind are STRONGLY encouraged to stay inside and refrain from “sight seeing.”
• The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority has reported leakage that has made it necessary to shut off water to Key West. In the Lower Keys, the leaks do not appear to be in the main transmission line and so can be isolated as soon as crews can respond. However, the leaks directly above Key West have not been identified yet and must wait on further inspections. In the meantime, Key West will be without water.
• AT&T has reported that they believe the issues with their equipment are centered at the station at MM20. They are sending crews as soon as possible.
• None of the three Keys hospitals are open yet. However, Lower Keys Medical Center has a skeleton staff on hand — enough to legally ensure that emergency personnel, and only emergency personnel — can receive medical care. Again, none of the emergency rooms are operational. Baptist Health, the nonprofit parent of both Fishermen’s Hospital and Mariners Hospital has reported that Mariners can open as soon as state health authorities clear them for operation.
• The U.S. Coast Guard has a small crew which will be able to land as soon as the Key West Airport is open.
• Finally, in the wee hours, the Monroe County Emergency Management team will work on establishing rallying points for key personnel to gather on the mainland for re-entry into the Keys. Be patient. Stay tuned.
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