Home! You can go home on Sunday. Though why in the world you would escapes me tonight.
Monroe County officials told off-island folks today they could return to the Lower Keys, including Key West, Sunday morning. That “welcome home” is filled with so many caveats that thinking people will beg their evacuation hosts and hotels for another week of hospitality.
I know, I do get it. None of us will be contented until we take down the shutters and start hauling tree limbs to the curb. If Ed weren’t already there doing just that, I would be so casual about deciding to stay away at least another week. Privileged or not, driving home on Sunday ranks right up there with “what part of this mess do you not understand”?
Ed and I love pack-in-pack-out camping. In April we spent three nights and four days at Fort Jefferson out in the Dry Tortugas. We’d have stayed longer, but that’s the park service limit for one trip. Pack-in-pack-out isn’t for the dainty or those who hate bugs. It’s especially not for those who require showers and toilets that don’t, well, smell like something dead.
Keep that in mind if you’re considering a return within the week. I’m staying in Virginia with my mom until at least Saturday, Sept. 23; and that’s assuming Delta is doing commercial flights by then. Non-emergency air travel to Key West is on-hold indefinitely. I miss Ed and the Cat 5s — not necessarily in that order, though I’m not telling him — but, really, why would I want to go back to:
- No running, potable water. If you didn’t leave — or don’t bring with you — at least one gallon per day per person of drinking water, you’re gonna get powerful thirsty. Unless, of course, you feel entitled to having the government give you emergency water.
- Toilets I gotta flush — occasionally — with a five gallon bucket from the pool
- Sketchy electric. Sure, it’s coming back, and it’s also unstable. The Meadows where I live does not have power as of 6 p.m., Saturday. And likely won’t anytime soon because there are still wires hanging and trees and debris blocking access to lines running into people’s houses.
- Food that’s left over from two weeks ago. Or canned tuna and protein drinks. Sigh. I prefer some fresh vegetables, and there sure aren’t any of those around. Just because Publix and Winn-Dixie are open for a few hours each day, doesn’t mean they have stuff. Remember, they haven’t had restocking deliveries since before the storm.
- No building supplies. If you don’t have a bunch of tools and construction supplies lying around the house, you’re not going to get them at home. Yes, Strunk’s and Home Depot are open for a few hours daily — but they’re like the grocery stores. Nothing much you’ll need do they have. Ed said this evening that construction repair-type stock and grocery store items are in very short supply everywhere — and there are no tractor trailers headed to Key West any time soon.
- No gasoline. See above re: groceries and construction supplies. Just because you’re seeing posts that say “YEAH! There’s gas!” doesn’t mean there’s enough food, fuel, water, electric, et al for 30,000 people to return to the Keys and Key West.
- No medical care and no new meds. There are minor emergency medical care services, but anything more than simple stuff gets helicoptered off-island. Please don’t tax the emergency medical staff if you don’t have to.
- No Amazon Prime. I mean, really, someone asked me that today. No UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Post Office are not delivering your mail or your packages, and probably won’t anytime soon.
- That strict, we-will-arrest-you curfew. You cannot be on the streets of Key West in any shape or fashion between dusk and dawn. Given the unholy traffic jams that are going to turn the Overseas Highway into a parking lot, do you really want to arrive at about Key Haven and be told to turn around or stay in your stinking car with the dog and the kids overnight?
- Twenty-one checkpoints coming down the Keys. You’ll not get into any town without an official local address. Period.
- No place to live if your house isn’t habitable. The shelters are few and far between and offer virtually no services. Bring a tent.
- And this one just in: Tropical Storm Maria is expected to become a major hurricane over the next few days. And, she may start eyeing the Florida Keys. Sigh.
Still determined to rush back to clean out the refrigerator? (Though why in Hannah’s heaven you didn’t toss it all before you left, I cannot fathom.) Google pack-in-pack-out camping and get a list of what you’ll need to buy before you even get close to Florida City. ‘Cuz you ain’t gonna get it in Key West.
PS: The Cat 5s, says Ed, are doing great. Even shy, hideaway Molly is out and about. Guess they’re getting used to the heat. Indoor cats are as persnickity about no air conditioning as their humans.
Now, go beg your hosts to let you stay a few more days. Or a week. A month could be pushing it, I guess.
Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband, Ed, live with their Cat 5s in Key West.