TIPS FROM THOSE WHO’VE WEATHERED THE STORM – OFFICIAL FLORIDA KEYS HURRICANE GUIDE

Good news: Lower water temperatures - A close up of a snow covered mountain - Hurricane Floyd
A hurricane approaches the east coast of Florida in this NASA satellite image.

Are you new around here? Welcome to the Florida Keys — and to hurricane season. 

Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. But now is the time to get yourself acquainted with the recommended safety tips and supply checklists. There are plenty of resources, including this guide, to ensure you have all the important bases covered. 

But there are some other great ideas, innovations and improvisations that come from those who have storm experience on the island chain. Other than emergency management directives, Keys locals who’ve lived through (and ridden out) storms might be the best authority for tips and tricks as hurricanes and tropical storms take aim at our island chain. We asked a few for their words of wisdom:

JOHN SCHAEFER
Mail carrier for USPS, Marathon

John made the decision to ride out Hurricane Irma in his second-floor condo, sleeping in his tub while wearing a life jacket and helmet with a kayak at the ready. For those who choose to “ride it out,” he stressed the importance of having a team of friends or family at the ready to help each other and address urgent needs both before and after the storm. In the potential absence of cell service, having a backup method of communication is key, as well as supplies to be self-sufficient.

“We used walkie talkies,” he said. “That was huge, having a communication system. Make sure you also have at least two weeks’ worth of water, food, and other stuff you’ll need. Don’t forget water to wash clothes, and things like a way to manage the waste coming out of your body. Don’t make it a problem for someone else.”

CAPT. STAN MILES
Fishing captain in Key West

Hurricane Irma’s destruction had to land somewhere, and thousands of nails and other sharp objects landed in driveways and roadways, flattening countless tires.

Just a month before the storm, Capt. Stan Miles had ordered a tire-inflator adaptor that he could attach to one of his scuba air tanks. In the days following Hurricane Irma, Miles didn’t leave home without an air tank and his adaptor, which he used on two of his own tires and the tires of about seven other friends and neighbors. (In addition to the tire-inflator adaptor, he threw a couple tire plug kits into his trusty, ole Ford F150 and got plenty of folks back on the road.

“This adaptor was the best 12 bucks I ever spent,” Miles said, adding that he also filled buckets from the backyard pool and used that to flush the toilet when the water was out. 

JIM MOONEY
Then-mayor of Islamorada

He rode out Hurricane Irma from his solid concrete home with impact windows (yes, he still put his shutters on to prevent damage from a flying pea rock). And while devastation from Irma didn’t compare to the scene in the Lower Keys, the storm did inflict severe damage in certain areas of Islamorada. Mooney waited until conditions were calm to leave his house and inspect the debris and destruction. 

Mooney said it doesn’t take much for a power line to fall and be off the grid for days — or even weeks. “Whatever you do, don’t go outside during the storm because one piece of debris flying can kill you. A downed power line can kill you. Once the storm clears, don’t’ clear anything off power lines. People need to know that things can go south quickly. You can get hurt after the storm as easily as during a storm.”

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