See that map right up there? It says the state of Florida is in this dance with Hurricane Irma. Please note that the only place in southern Florida that’s not in red or orange is Key West.
That’s in part why Ed and the Cat 5s are staying on the island as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Florida peninsula. Straight up the middle, entering as a Cat 4, tearing up the center as a Cat 3 and sprawling across the girth of the state like a fat man who just loosened his belt.
After days of preparation to leave, Ed made the decision to stay. He’s staying because we weighed the odds that sheltering in place, taking care of the neighbors and reporting live during the storm were better than chancing an evacuation that would push him farther and farther northward with five cats, massive traffic and no gasoline.
Most of the families on our block and many in our extended neighborhood made the same decision. As have those who have no choices, who’s on-island personal and professional responsibilities demand they stay. Not even the happy hour crowd made the decision to stay because they were “storm deniers” or crazy. They choose to stay because that’s the right decision for them.
Ed will continue to photograph the island before the storm so that we’ll have real time pictures and videos as Key West prepares for the storm. He’ll report through the storm, and with a twist or turn or two, he’ll be back on the streets reporting live in the days after. There’s virtually no one left to tell the story of Key West and Hurricane Irma.
I’ll aggregate news and information so that locals have information. Our tiny island isn’t a place with roving journalists. I’m collecting contact information for those remaining on island. Between us, Ed and I have made the commitment to do what we can to keep our Key West friends connected and safe. We’ll organize a “check your house” system for those who left the island. Tell us what you want checked and Ed will go look. I’ll get it to you electronically — if Ed can get it to me.
We won’t know until late in the weekend or Monday whether the bravado meme was right: “The only place in Florida to escape Hurricane Irma is Key West.” The spaghetti models at 9 p.m., Thursday, indicated that might wishfully be the case. A Cat 3, instead of the Cat 4 or 5 that’s likely to roar through the rest of the state.
Deciding to evacuate is a Hobson’s Choice. There’s no good decision. Stay on island and risk a Cat 5, which hasn’t been seen in a century? There’s nothing left after a Cat 5. Nothing. As for those bridges that connect Key West to the “real” world? Gone. Electric and water? Not going to happen because we’re connected to the mainland by manmade umbilical cords.
Head out? Well, sure, if you have somewhere to go and gasoline to make it go. That’s what thousands of Keys residents have done; just as the emergency management people told them to do. I’m glad they could go; I wish them well. They were the lucky — or smart — ones who found gas along the way, who didn’t break down, who found a place to stay.
As the models today tracked farther west from landfall, my evacuating friends were beginning to make Plan C — how to get all the way out of Florida. Tonight even crossing the state line might not be far enough.
Florida as we know it today isn’t going to be there come Monday. It’s not a question of “if.” It’s about when and how bad. With luck, Ed and our five cats will be around to show you.
Linda Grist Cunningham is in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on a previously planned family errand. She could not get back to the island before the airports closed. She’d be there if she could. She loves her husband and is grateful he’s a heck of an amateur reporter and photographer.
Thank you for your commitment to reporting on Irma from Key West. Your info is most helpful. I am praying that Ed and all others on Key West will be safe. As a favour, please check my home at 821 Frances Street when it’s safe to do so after the storm. Thank you, thank you!
Happy to do the check, Heather.
Thanks for the running commentary. Praying for Ed and the cats and everyone else staying place.
Good luck to Ed and the kitties. Here in Bradenton right now, we’re being told it will be a Cat 2 in this region, which is sorta good news…but. A little wobble could change all that. Am so appreciative of your blog and Ed’s braving the storm to keep everyone informed. Assume cats will ride this out under the bed? 🙂 Will stay in touch, Linda, as long as I can until lights go out!
Thanks, Miss Irma. Yeah, the cats are kind oblivious at the moment.
Thank you for sharing Ed’s experience. We have a home in Lake Wales, FL and are currently at our home in Roscoe, IL. Our son lives near Winter Haven.
Hope Ed and 5 cats stay safe. I completely understand the reasoning for staying.
Linda- thank you for this. We have a house in Key West and we’ were scheduled to leave on Saturday but left on Wednesday to go back to Rockford, IL. Hoping that Ed & cats hunker down & weather the storm. If possible, could Ed check 1706 Patricia? Praying he made the right decision to stay & models showing Irma going out to sea are the correct one. (That’s the Pollyanna in me : “I know! Let’s play the Glad Game!”)
Travel safely, Suki. Ed will check the house.
A news pro, as always. How many disasters in our lives have we either run into or managed coverage from afar? I am sure the Key West Watch metro desk will provide the best coverage of the Key West storm damage. Best to Ed and the Cat 5s.
LOL. Yep, we’ve both been there, haven’t we? I hate being out of the “field,” so to speak, but, like you, spent much of my career directing-not-doing.As for being the “best”? Well, for sure, the only. The local paper shut down completely today. All that appears to be left is us and the radio station. Hugs, my friend!
Ed gives a whole new meaning to boots on the ground. May he and the kitties be safe while they weather the storm.
Thanks for the live coverage. I’d expect no less from you. It’s in your DNA, m’dear.
Well, I had to have something to do. And, an editor is useless without minions in the field. Wish I could get the cats to cooperate with him. Oh, and I wish to heaven I were there.
so, tomorrow I am going to put on that fun filled, colorful, parrot scrub top that you and Ed gifted to me – I believe it came from Key West. I will go to work and raise my coffee mug and hum a Jimmy Buffett tune…. and then, I will bow my head and say a prayer for Ed and all of those who are “riding the storm out”. God Bless.
Oh, Julie, what a most splendid idea! And, yep, that scrub top is a Key West original.
Stay safe Ed!! We’ll be praying for your safety and everyone around here back here in MO!!
We’ve got close friends of ours here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Barb’s sister and her boyfriend stayed on Big Pines Key with a neighbor to ride it out. Haven’t had contact since very early Sunday morning. Trying to help any way I can, so here I am posting. Barb wrote on FB today “We have not heard from Carol Kellogg and Scott Crabtree since Sunday around 8:00am. We are looking for anyone who is currently in the Middle Keys that would be able to check on them. They live at 488 Almond Lane, Big Pine Key but they were staying at a neighbor’s concrete house during the storm. The neighbor’s name is Ed Baldwin and his address is 569 Almond Lane, Big Pine Key. This is where we expect them to be. Please call me Barbara Browning (513-300-7990) or my sister, Linda Lynn (202-359-6074) if you can help. Thanks so much.” Anything you can do to help is a Godsend. God Bless.