Hurricane Irma | 9-16-17: This Key West homecoming ain’t some kind of “glamping”

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.

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Irma: 9-15-17: Ready to come home to Key West? Maybe Sunday

What we know, what we don’t and what we think we know

We only know one thing tonight: The slog of restoring a sliver of normalcy to Key West after Hurricane Irma continues. Progress is astounding thanks to scores of men and women who do what most of us would never dream of doing. I stand in awe of them. Data and cell service are back and strong. Electricity on-island is coming back slowly. (The Meadows is still out as I am writing; lots of wires still dangling in the trees and streets.) Running, potable water is a trickle, but FKAA is out there whacking their water moles.

May I come home now? It is what we think we know that makes for happy dancing. It is possible, maybe barely possible, that Key West residents might be able to go home on Sunday, Sept. 17. That’s the latest we heard from city commissioner Sam Kauffman. He adds multiple lines of caveats, but he’s willing to go out on that broken limb and hazard a guess. Maybe Sunday.

The county just announced there will be a news conference Saturday morning around 8:30 to announce re-entry plans for residents.

Do not start packing yet. But you might want to think about a list of things to round up for the journey. Better bring bug spray.

Tourist, seasonal and vacation friends: Not you. You don’t get to come yet. And, I don’t have a time frame. Gonna be a while, for sure. First ones home will have to have a hurricane re-entry sticker or ID with a permanent residence in Key West.

Old-time journalists in a social media world

Back when Ed and I combined our marriage with two careers, one of which consumed most of every 24 hours, we reached an agreement. “If I roll over in the morning,” he said, “and you’re not there, and if I haven’t heard from the state cops, I’ll assume you’re OK.”

You gotta love a partner with an attitude like that. I’d call home, say I’d be there in an hour (the New Jersey commute was never less than an hour one way), then get distracted by some newsroom crisis or interesting conversation and not show up for four.

Oh, don’t be horrified and send me nasty texts. If you ever dated, much less married, a journalist you’ll nod wisely. If not, it’s complicated. Trust me. Despite today’s joyful disrespecting of “the media,” those journalists who show up and do their jobs well, do so because they love to write, they care about their communities and they believe in doing the right thing.

We’re also crazy. We’re so crazy that John Teets and I have spent the past week staring into computer screens, scrounging for information, whacking trolls, crying over the damage to our (and your) homes, sharing the frustration of not knowing where your friends and families were. And, I’ll admit, we’ve enjoyed every cross-eyed, laptop-blinding, finger twisting minute. My arthritis is killing me.

John and I shared parts of our careers in northern Illinois, land of minus 50-degree wind chill, deep dish pizzas and an affinity for Wisconsin. He spent seven years at the once-legendary Chicago Tribune and 17 at the (always feisty) Chicago Sun-Times. I spent 20 at the Rockford Register Star. We met in Key West at a Equality Florida party. Journalists can sniff each other out in a crowd. Something about ink in our veins.

John and I traded ink and paper for the digital world of social media and websites; hence, you all get the Key West Hurricane Irma page — and we don’t have to find a printing press. Definitely more cost effective, though way more time sucking. Once the press starts, we could go to the bar — or home. Not so much with the interwebbie way of doing news.

We agreed when we started the page to follow our old-fashioned journalism rules: Whack the moles; verify the information as best we could; use credible sources; keep it news, not opinion; connect with our readers. I added one more: This is our house. You’re a guest in our house. So, if you become unruly, we’ll show you the door.

Eventually, John and I will shutter the page and let other news folks take the lead. Eventually. We’re not sure when, but we’ll know when. In the meantime, we’re both staring at brightly-lighted screens — both of us off-island and wondering when we can go home.

It’s a darn good thing Ed was safely (so to speak) on-island because he’d once again be wondering where the heck I was. Once a journalist, etc.

We understand how Heather feels

With her permission, I share a personal post from county commissioner Heather Carruthers. She’s one of our most reliable sources for information during Hurricane Irma. We are grateful to her. Her Facebook post this morning made me cry, then smile. I knew you needed to hear her, too, so I asked. She said “yes.”

A personal post…I am dead tired and can’t sleep. Again. I stop for a minute and I start to cry. We are lucky. Our home is fine, our friends and family are safe, our town weathered Irma better than Wilma.

But the enormity of the loss in my beautiful islands is unfathomable. I cannot imagine the feeling to know someone you love did not see Monday, or the home you built and loved is just gone.

I’m sure this takes a toll on relationships too. Even here, in our comfortable if cozy hotel room, the stress for me of trying to help from a distance, and the stress on my wife of managing a five-year-old and a one-year-old (with a cold) in an unfamiliar place gets to you both. It must be overwhelming to those who weathered the storm or are just realizing what lies ahead for them. I’ve read posts about breakdowns, about public tears. We’ve all had them.

And at the same time, the outpouring of support and caring is almost more than a heart can hold. I’ve heard from friends and family that I haven’t heard from in years. People we do not know literally from around the world have been here for us, emotionally and physically.

This is a galvanizing event. I’m a Gemini. The head part of me is trying to balance our collective desire to be home with the realities of scarce resources, is thinking of what we must do to make ourselves safer for storms like this, is constantly evaluating our technology and processes, and is determined to find sturdy and appropriate housing (call it workforce or affordable, I don’t care) for those who lost theirs. And the heart part of me, well that just aches with empathy and gratitude. Thank you, my One Human Family, for being.

And, with that, my friends, good night. The time for hard work arrives.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband Ed live in Key West with their five cats — who are doing fine, by the way. Hot. But fine.

Hurricane Irma: 9-14-17: Cutting down trees, piling up brush, restoring Fort Zach

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park ranger Ed Cunningham went back to work today cutting brush, removing trees, piling debris and trying awfully hard to handle his grief over the devastation of the park. He told me tonight that “there are years of work to do” before we get back the Fort Zach we love.

Fort Zach took the brunt of Hurricane Irma as the westerly winds from the back side tore through that tidy little spit at the end of Key West. At least a third of the Australian pines are down and gone. Most of the other trees and vegetation is destroyed. And the beach? There’s sand, but not the way we remember it. Ed says the sand is up into the remaining trees, the picnic tables are buried and onlyt the tops of the grills are showing above the sand. That’s feet of sand. Not a few inches. There was a catch in his voice again this evening. Tomorrow, he and his fellow park rangers go back at 8 a.m., and they’ll work until just before the sunset curfew. For days. Weeks. Years.

“You know,” he said as he called from the cell tower behind new City Hall, hurrying because it was almost curfew, “you know how back in Rockford at the end of the winter there would be those mountains of snow piles that dwarfed cars and filled parking lots? Well, that’s exactly what the streets of Key West are like today — except instead of dirty white snow, it’s dead green.”

“You think parking was a problem before the hurricane,” he joked. “Well, it’s worse now. Every square inch of available parking along the streets is filled with mountains of vegetation and debris. Some streets are barely one way. If people came back now, they’d have no place to park.”

The city’s debris removal contractor is at work, but the task of removing everything that was green last week is monumental.

My park ranger sounds, despite it all, happy. Forester and tree hugger that he is, Eagle Scout that he was, Ed thrives on things like chain saws, hammers and heavy equipment. He grins when he comes home from work after getting to use the Fort Zach tractor and guiding tours of the fort. He said it was drizzling tonight. No sunset to speak of.

We’re minus the Facebook trolls!

A week ago we were screwing in the shutters, gassing up the car and entertaining ourselves with Hurricane Irma Comes To Key West Cat 5 stories (hurricanes, not my Cat 5s).

Today, we’re flat worn out. And, by we, I mean we’uns off-island watching from our semi-comfortable evacuation retreats, with air conditioning, running water, a toilet that flushes on command, a pizza place on speed dial and ice cubes for adult beverages. So, since we have nothing else to do, we ratchet up our indignation and yell at whomever happens to be closest. (I just grumped at my mother; I know the feeling.)

Except not on our Key West Hurricane Irma Facebook Page. Here we’ve shown the best side of humans under stress. Not so in my News Feed or on some of the other Facebook pages I follow. Here has been a refuge; I chalk that up to you. Those who’ve followed it since we made our first post at 8:12 a.m., Sept. 5, know this: Over the past nine days, we have reached three-quarters of a million people with our posts, there are 12,000 people following the page and there’ve been more than 128,000 video views.

We are the most civilized collection of online family. When this mess is over, you can tell yourself you did good. Thanks for letting me be part of that.

What we know, don’t know, and think we know

Keys Energy estimates maybe by the end of the week Key West will have power. And, that, my friends, is the best news of the day. I’m not dragging out the hairdryer in celebration just yet, but you gotta give credit to those guys climbing poles and chasing wires. Dangerous, hot, nasty work.

There are no hordes of looters at your door. I mean, really, folks? Use some common sense and stop feeding on headline hysteria. OK, not on our page, but it’s out there. The sheriff and the city police report, like maybe, four reports from the whole county. Give our island people some credit. They’re not breaking into your homes in roving packs. Sure, it could happen. That’s why law enforcement is roaming around, too.

Running water. Getting there, but slow going. Each day on-island folks get a couple hours mid-day and a couple in the evening. So they get a shower. A pox on the people who are washing cars and cleaning outdoor spaces. Those greedy ones are making it tough for everyone else.

KeysRecovery.org is the new Monroe County Emergency Management website that will provide the latest information on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. I hope. The site’s content remains pretty thin, but I’m hoping they are committed to keeping it up to date. For now, she says immodestly, we’ve got more updated news on the Facebook Page.

Find someone. Everyone has been begging for an efficient “wellness check” system. I dug around the new website this afternoon and found this. Send an email with details to info@keysrecovery.org and they’ll get it to the right place.

Old Publix is open with shortened hours. Good news for those who didn’t plan for a couple weeks of canned goods. Do not, however, expect to find delicacies for a cocktail party and, fresh stuff will be hard to come by until supply lines can support those big trucks.

Communications getting better. Yeah, you’re getting calls. Finally. I got a text from a friend this evening saying she actually had data service — and thus internet. Ah, the simple pleasures of the digital world.

And, no, we still don’t know when we can go home. We can’t go home until there is stable electric, water, sewer, food deliveries and medical services. Each hour we get closer thanks to those nameless, sweaty, tired, frustrated men and women lifting, tying, cutting, checking, building and fixing.

It sucks to read posts or listen to calls from on-island folks who have taken down shutters, or who are sharing cocktails and cooking up the frozen stuff with friends. Seems unfair they can work on their houses and we can’t. I know that’s making a lot of us irritable. We don’t want to admit that we harbor a secret thought or two that they’re being rewarded for not evacuating and we’re being punished for getting the heck off the rock.

That’s the way it is with decisions. (Cliche alert) Sometimes you catch the ring and sometimes you fall off the horse.

From way out here, in those NOAA satellite pictures, our homes look just like they did a week ago. From the ground, it’s a much different story. We escaped the predictions. We did not escape the damage.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband, Ed, live in The Meadows of Key West with their Cat 5s.

 

 

 

Hurricane Irma: Sept. 13-17: Key West clean-up. Tempers fray. Frustrations increase. Time for Cat 5 pictures

Internet trolls are like Key West iguanas. Not even Hurricane Irma kills ’em. 

You knew it was going to happen. After the adrenaline surge of that pounding storm; after we confirmed Key West was (sorta) OK; after we wore out our welcome with our evacuation partners; after all that we’re just fed up. Irritable. Frustrated. Belligerent and ready to pick a fight.

Michael, or Mickey, or Mr. Mike, is our baby. He just turned one in August. We bottle fed him from four days old.

Where better to pick that fight than on the interwebbies? I noticed the belligerence escalating early Wednesday morning as those who evacuated started getting testy over not being allowed to come home. Some are copying-and-pasting a letter to Gov. Rick Scott demanding that he force Key West and Monroe County officials to let them back in. A few are shouting in capital letters along the lines of how “no one will ever evacuate again” and “off with their heads.”

Others are taking to broadsiding the national media — with some significant justification I agree — for grossly inaccurate, clickbait headlines and reporting that clearly don’t have a clue where Key West is. I admit to posting this comment this morning on my personal Facebook Page: “I just read a romanticized purple prose piece from the NYTimes that pretty much made me gag my cheerios. And I love and respect the NYT, but gheesh….”

And then there are the bottom feeders prepped and ready to scam you with clever ways to part you and your money. (Unsolicited advice: Call your insurance agent. Call FEMA. Send money only to the charities you know personally. Do not under any circumstances connect yourself with websites and emails that promise to do it for you no matter how caring they sound.)

Under the bed in their personal kingdom. The favorite place for Molly and Sarah. We call them the “old girls.”

In short, nothing unexpected. John Teets and I have spent a good chunk of Wednesday playing whack-a-mole on our Facebook Page with trolls and bottom feeders — and trying to gently work with real folks stunned at the magnitude of what Irma did to their Key West lives. We’ve both been in the news business for decades, so we know this is normal; we know it’s likely to get worse and we know it will pass. A week or two down the calendar and frustration, anger and irritability over the inability to control our lives will become determination to get things done and get back to normal.

Just not today. 

With that said, let’s do a quick roundup of what we know, what we don’t and what we think we know.

Starting with the big one: Today was the day cell service returned to Key West. OK, so it’s not great. But it’s there. I actually got a couple emails, photos and text messages from my husband and the Cat 5s. He was sitting in the parking lot behind new City Hall where the city has set up a temporary cell phone tower. Pass the word. There are still a couple of parking places left.

Know, don’t know, think we know. All mixed together

Livvy — short for Olivia, the street on which we live — is one huge cat. She’s one of “the twins.”

The “what we know” updates demonstrate the frustrating challenges the first responders and emergency crews are facing — from an unauthorized landing of a well-intentioned, but wholly dangerous supply helicopter landing at Sears Town to a fire on Stock Island and challenges with electric repairs.

Electric service has increased to 10 percent in Key West and the Lower Keys and there were problems with work in Marathon that created delays. While progress is expected on Thursday, let’s do a reality check: Turning on your lights, much less your air conditioner and pool pump, is days away. I’d say weeks, but I’ve watched these specialists who do storm duty work miracles.

Water: FKAA is gaining on the leaks along the system. While the main line appears to be holding, all those uprooted trees have damaged feeder lines, creating what must feel like endless repairs. Like whack-a-mole for water as repair crews attempt to locate and fix leaks on private property and feeder lines.

No fuel, food, water and ice: For all us clamouring to come home, know this. There are significant shortages of food, fuel, water and ice for the emergency crews and their equipment. I get it. I want to go home, too, but let’s get a grip, my friends. That stuff belongs to the men and women who are going to save our little piece of paradise. There’s not enough for us and them, too. More fuel is on the way, as are other supplies. But again, not for us. For them.

Jersey is Livvy’s twin and litter mate. The only way we tell them apart is with colored collars — and Jersey has rosebud lips.

No. You’re not coming home. No you’re not going to get to take your vacation next week. No determination has been made when locals can come back to Key West. The best estimates remain seven-to-10 days; middle- to end-of-next week. There are too many people on the island right now for the available supplies (and, yes, my husband is one of them.) I wish to heaven I knew a date so I could plan a homecoming. But, as my beloved grandmother, Pansy Grist, used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Eight deaths in Monroe County. Includes natural causes and hurricane related. Two of those eight deaths in Key West. Ten injuries in Key West. Thirty in remainder of county.

Finally, contact with my husband, Ed. He filled me in on his ‘cane-stay-cation and shared a bit of what life’s like on the island. He also shared his grief over the destruction at Fort Zachary Taylor, where he works as a park ranger. You also can check out those details on the Facebook Page.

Odds and Ends

Thought you might enjoy reading a column posted today on Huffington Post and written by a Key West resident. One of the many folks following our Facebook Page shared it with me. Called a “Love Letter to Key West,” it is written by  Lara Lillibridge and is a poignant and powerful reminder of why we each have our own love affairs with this island. Here’s a short bio, so you don’t have to go clicking around for it. “Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and also The American Literary Review’s Contest in Nonfiction. … Lara’s memoir will debut in Fall of 2017 with SkyHorse Publishing. She is currently a co-editor for an anthology of women’s voices entitled, Memoirs of the Feminine Divine: Voices of Power and Invisibility.”

Oh, and the Cat 5s: All are OK. A bit traumatized but recovering. The first pictures Ed sent me today were at my request: The Cat 5s. So for those who haven’t met them, here they are. Ed says it’s so hot they just want to lie around in cool places like under the bed and on the back porch. Not the best pictures, but they’re our babies, so we think they’re beautiful. I know. I know. Crazy cat people.

And, with that, my friends, John and I call it a good day’s work. Be kind to yourself and to others. We have a swamp of unpleasant tasks ahead. Best we tackle them together. As my dad reminded his five kids regularly when we’d complain of some hardship or pain: This, too, shall pass.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband, Ed, who is a Fort Zach park ranger, live in The Meadows of Key West with their Cat 5s.

 

 

Hurricane Irma: Top 10 things to tell on-island people in Key West on your next call

The folks who are on-island in Key West following Hurricane Irma have limited access to information. We out here in the land of waiting-and-watching actually know more than our friends and families in Key West. So, as cell service is restored, copy/paste the text and/or text the link to this post with them. That way they’ll have the 10 most important pieces of information they need.

NOTE: Information current as of 4 p.m, Wednesday, Sept. 13.

  1. Electric: Keys Energy Services reports that about seven percent of Key West has service. May have full service 7-10 days. Service is primarily limited to first responders, emergency services. Monroe County Assisted Living Facility, whose generator had failed, now has power. Trying to get power to grocery stores so there’s a food and ice supply.
  2. Water: Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority making progress. In Key West water is turned on from 10 a.m. to noon and from 5 to 7 p.m. Key West and Stock Island will have water from stored supplies and the reverse osmosis plant. Water restrictions are in place. Water should only be used for sanitation purposes and not for washing cars, boats and houses for now. There is still a precautionary boil water notice in effect for all of the Keys.
  3. Cell and internet: The City of Key West has a temporary cell tower behind new City Hall. Go to the parking lot and connect. Other service is sketchy, but AT&T and others are working on it. As of Tuesday, “new” Publix had some sort of wifi still working. Might try it, too, but haven’t heard any recent confirmation.
  4. Food and gasoline: Some coming in, but limited to emergency services, etc. Publix and Winn DIxie say they are working to restore service. Ditto the gas station peeps. But don’t count on anything soon.
  5. When will you come home: Maybe mid- to late-next week. Airport is open for emergency services. No commercial flights. Home and business owners are being allowed back into areas down to MM 73 or so. Bridges and roads have been inspected and repaired. They are OK all the way down the Keys. No one allowed into Key West. There’s a sunrise to sunset curfew in place.
  6. Where to get emergency water and food: Six distribution centers for food and water: Coral Shores High School, Marathon High School, National Key Deer Refuge office on the Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key. Sugarloaf School, Sears Town Plaza in New Town Key West and the 4th Street parking lot near the soccer field in Bahama Village in Old Town Key West.
  7. Medical services: Lower Keys Hospital and Mariner’s Hospital are open with minimal services being offered. Disaster Medical Assistance Teams have arrived and will be setting up medical clinics today in Key West, the Florida Keys Community College and the City of Marathon Park.
  8. There is no 911 service as of noon Wednesday. Working to restore asap.
  9. Rumors of mass casualties are untrue: As of Wednesday morning, there were eight deaths in Monroe County. Includes natural causes and hurricane related. Two of those eight deaths in Key West. Ten injuries in Key West. Thirty in remainder of county.
  10. Check with local bars and businesses: There are some bars open; ditto a few businesses. They may have landlines. Some are also making whatever water and supplies they have available. The list changes constantly, so you might have to walk about.

 

And, of course, tell them you love them and will be home as soon as you can.

 

Hurricane Irma: 9-13-17: The Cat 5s and their dad report from Key West

Key West Artist Richard Matson. Photo taken in early 2017 before Hurricane Irma.

Fort Zach park ranger Ed Cunningham. Photo taken in early 2017 before Hurricane Irma.

Nothing like imagining Ed Cunningham and Richard Matson wandering around Key West looking for ice so they can make a vodka martini. But that’s the headline from “my boys” as they camp-a-cane in The Meadows today.

Although I knew he was OK because there’d been several “sightings” earlier in the week, today is the first chance Ed and I could share the post-Hurricane Irma details.

Ed is a forester by training, a utility forestry specialist by trade, a storm project manager and now a park ranger at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Nothing makes him happier than hugging trees — and collecting cats. Everyone thinks the cats are mine. Not so. Just Molly is mine. Sarah, Jersey, Livvy and Michael all prefer climbing over Ed and he’s pretty partial to them.

He said to tell you that he’s got photos and videos during and after the storm and will post them as soon as he gets a decent internet connection. I told him y’all really only cared about seeing a picture of him and the Cat 5s. He’ll try. In the meantime, here are the two Facebook Page posts from earlier this afternoon. Lots of good updates and info.

Ed Cunningham reports from Key West at 2:21 p.m., Wednesday, 9-13-17: If you’re just tuning in, my husband and our Cat 5s remained in Key West for the storm. Our house is in the 1300 block of Olivia. Here’s what he knows:

  • 1. The city has set up a temporary cell tower right behind new City Hall on White Street. Folks are beginning to gather there so they can make calls. Service reception was decent, though not great. Cell service elsewhere on island is spotty at best, and the city tower doesn’t extend very far.
    2. ICE. Oh, my they’d stand in line for ice. But they’re having a hard time getting info about where it’s available, and when they do, it’s usually gone.
    3. We out here know a LOT more about what’s happening than the on-island folks. They get info from 104.1 and that’s it. So, all the things we know about electric, water, clean-up, damage, etc., they really don’t know. For instance, WE know that the water from the taps that they’re getting a couple times a day is “non-potable.” They don’t. So, as Ed said, “oh, well, I’ve been drinking it for days and I’m not dead yet.”
    4. It’s miserably hot and humid. But they’re making the best of it. Ed was with our neighbor across the street when he called from city hall tower. I asked what they needed most: Ice and some vodka. So, they’re keeping a sense of humor about it all.
    5. The Cat 5s have returned to normal. Somewhat traumatized by the power of the storm (and they, too are hot. Lounging around like, well, cats), but they’re back to being regular cats.
    6. Ed has been cleaning up debris and trees from our property and around the neighborhood. He spent his entire career doing storm duty for major public electric companies and he’s a forester, so he knows what he’s doing.
    7. I asked if he thought I should file paperwork for FEMA and our various insurances. He said, “Sure. We’ve got a broken flower pot.”

 

  • 3:20 p.m., Wednesday, 9-13-17: Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Ed Cunningham, who is a park ranger at Fort Zach, was almost in tears as he told me about the damage at Fort Zach. He rode over today on his bike. About a third of the Australian pines are down and most of the rest of the trees are gone or stripped bare. The new guard shack/entrance is fine. He could not get down to the beach because downed trees have the road closed. There ARE folks working on clean up, but as Ed said, it’s going to be a long, hard haul.

And, with that, I’m going to put together a post called “Information Dick and Ed need to know.” It’ll wrap up everything WE know so they can read one post. As soon as I get it done, I’ll share the link.

Keep the faith, my friends.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media. She and her husband Ed live in The Meadows in Key West with their five cats.

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