Stillwright 1+2: Water fills streets and driveways inside Stillwright Point in Key Largo as residents woke up Thursday morning to storm surge from Hurricane Ian. EMILIE CALDWELL STEWART/Contributed

The worst is over for the Florida Keys, where damage assessments and repairs are now the primary focus following flooding and tropical storm winds spawned by Hurricane Ian Tuesday and Wednesday. Schools will reopen tomorrow (Friday).

Ian pushed storm surge waters into Keys homes, neighborhoods and businesses as the massive storm churned its way up Florida’s west coast. Storm forecasts by experts at the National Weather Service proved accurate, as they had predicted 1 to 3 feet of water above high tide, which have been higher than normal this summer.

While those waters have receded from most of the Keys, the Upper Keys are still awaiting their slow recession.

“Late last night, we peaked at 2.5 feet above normal high tide in Blackwater Sound, which is very significant for that area,” said Jon Rizzo, forecast warning meteorologist with the National Weather Service said Thursday morning. “The water has fallen about half a foot, and will continue to fall tomorrow.”

But, Rizzo said, those Upper Keys neighborhoods shouldn’t expect the waters to fully recede until Saturday. He added that the Middle Keys will likely experience some “nuisance flooding” during the next high tide, but that should be about it. Key West and the Lower Keys should be back to normal high tides today, Rizzo said.

‘The small craft advisory will be lifted later today, and we’re looking at some good weather this weekend for recovery and repairs efforts,” he said.

In Key West, standing water, fallen trees and debris remain in several roads and neighborhoods, said Greg Barroso, the city’s emergency management chief. He added that South Roosevelt Boulevard, the island’s main beach road along Smathers Beach, is closed from Key West International Airport to Bertha Street due to flooding that piled sand and seaweed over the roadway. 

An estimated 100 homes in Key West were flooded in the storm, along with several cars that had water over their hoods.

“Our concerns now are for a debriefing with the county’s Emergency Operations team,” Barroso said. He had repeatedly requested that a shelter be opened in the city for homeless people and liveaboard residents. That request was denied by the county’s emergency management officials until County Commissioner Jim Scholl became insistent late Monday.

School district officials were prepared all along to open Key West High School as a shelter and eventually did so on Tuesday. The school housed 100 or so people Tuesday and Wednesday, said Deputy Superintendent Amber Acevedo.

Keys Energy Services’ CEO Lynne Tejeda on Thursday said that about 400 customers remained without power, “with the vast majority of them in the city limits of Key West.” Tejeda said crews expect to get everyone turned back on today.

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.