Florida Keys

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West elected a new mayor Tuesday for the first time in nine years. And Teri Johnston's victory was historic: she's the first openly lesbian woman to win election as a mayor in Florida, according to the LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida

Johnston has lived in Key West for 20 years. She works as a local contractor. And she served as a city commissioner for eight years.

Mark Hedden / markhedden.com

In Florida's high profile, tightly contested governor's race, the focus is squarely on South Florida. On Thursday, one candidate went as far south as he could go.

Wood Environment

It's been well over a year since Hurricane Irma struck, but in the Florida Keys some canals are still being added to the list for cleanup.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

The Florida Keys' wacky and often-decadent costuming and masking festival is kicking off with a coronation ball to crown the 10-day festival's king and queen.

Fantasy Fest begins Friday in Key West. The celebration started in 1979 when a small group of Key Westers dreamt up the event to bolster business between summer and winter.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

It's a good idea to protect your skin with sunscreen when you're out on the water.

But protecting reefs means giving up some of the most common sunscreens that can harm corals. Studies have found that some ingredients, especially oxybenzone and octinoxate, are harmful even in very small quantities.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The state’s stone crab fishery should expect to take a hit this season from the red tide algae bloom that’s been plaguing Florida’s west coast for months, but the Keys, which accounts for 65 percent of the harvest of the sought-after claws, does not appear to be affected.

Mark Hedden

It's the time of year when residents from the Florida Keys can catch a glimpse of thousands of Peregrine Falcons on their way to South America.

The falcons are considered the fastest animals on earth — reaching speeds up to 240 miles per hour. Spectators and professional birdwatchers from around the world will gather in the Florida Keys this weekend for the annual “Hawk Mania” event.

AH of Monroe County

In the 1980s, Key West was hit especially hard by AIDS. The group AIDS Help was created then to provide hospice care and treatment for people who had the disease.  Over the years, it changed its name to AH-Monroe and expanded its mission to address crises from affordable housing to the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Chabeli Herrera / Miami Herald

A federal audit looking into controversial and lucrative emergency debris removal contracts approved by the state after Hurricane Irma blasted the Keys last year was launched by Florida members of Congress who said Monroe County never requested the state come in and help with debris removal.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Since David Wolkowsky died Sept. 23 at the age of 99, people on the island have been talking about his life and legacy.

Kevin Walden / Monroe County School District

School had only been in session for a couple weeks last year when the Florida Keys went under a mandatory evacuation order — and then took the brunt of Hurricane Irma as a category 4 storm.

Pearson K-12 Technology/flickr

Viewers hoping to watch the Monroe County School Board meeting online Tuesday — or who tried to get through to the school district by phone — were out of luck.

The district shut its entire computer system down after detecting a malicious software attack over the weekend.

Monroe County Public Library

The old Seven Mile Bridge, right off the Overseas Highway in the Keys, hasn't been open to regular traffic since 1982. Now, part of the old bridge is getting a $38 million restoration.

Brian Vest / Courtesy

One year ago, South Florida awoke to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma.

The storm had slammed into the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm, bringing catastrophic winds and rain. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm surge and tide produced flooding of 5 to 8 feet in the Lower Keys and winds reached 120-mph in Big Pine Key.

The storm left piles of torn down trees, couches, porta-potties, refrigerators, furniture and other debris across the islands.

Over the past year, South Florida has worked to rebuild. WLRN's Sundial producers traveled to the Keys to talk to Lynda Wells, Douglas Mader and Brian Vest, three Florida Keys residents with one mission: to help improve the lives of people in their community after the hurricane.

You can hear/read their stories below. 


Tom Hudson

The White Sands Inn and Hawks Cay Resort are only four miles apart in the Middle Keys, but they represent two very different types of hotels along the island chain. They also represent two very different realities in the year since Hurricane Irma hit Monroe County.

Hawks Cay is one of the largest hotels in the Keys with 177 rooms and 250 rental villas, and it is one of the largest private employers in the Keys. During the business season, it employes 350 people. It's owned by a real estate investment group based in New York City.

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