Hurricane Irma

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.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

A year ago, South Florida was bracing for Hurricane Irma.

 

The Category 4 storm made landfall in the Lower Keys. Irma ripped through islands, damaging thousands of homes and businesses. 

Tom Hudson

Monroe County is waiting for $90 million of federal money promised to help rebuild and repair damage after Hurricane Irma and help better protect the Keys from future storms. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Almost a year after Hurricane Irma, cleaning up the Florida Keys is an ongoing project. A local volunteer group is tackling one of the most difficult tasks — removing all the stuff that got washed into the mangrove shorelines along the island chain.

Kate Stein / WLRN

A center to help people in low-income neighborhoods prepare for and recover from hurricanes launched in north Miami-Dade on Saturday. 

Organizers say the "community emergency operations center" builds off of Hurricane Irma last year, when community groups from across Florida mobilized to collect donations, host cookouts and provide legal support for more than 23,000 people.

It's been almost a year since Hurricane Irma impacted Central Florida in mid-September - but the damage it did is still being calculated.

Suzana Blake / NOAA Fisheries

Hurricane Irma cost Florida's fishing industries almost $200 million, according to a damage assessment released by the state and federal governments.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

One little cottage of less than 800 square feet got a lot of attention - and even a ribbon-cutting Thursday. The home, in the Avenues neighborhood of Big Pine Key, was the first Keys Cottage to be completed by the Florida Keys Community Land Trust.

Cammy Clark / Monroe County

With lots of rain and high humidity over the summer, Big Pine Key has not seen a repeat of last spring's wildfire that consumed dozens of acres. And the state forest service is trying to keep it that way.

The fire last April consumed dozens of acres and destroyed one structure. It was fueled by the dead vegetation left behind by Hurricane Irma, which crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 hurricane in September of 2017.

Monroe County School District

Across Florida, school is starting with new attention to school safety and security. In the Keys, that means more than increased police protection.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Former President Bill Clinton was in Miami Tuesday for a meeting on improving disaster response and resiliency in the Caribbean.

The event, organized by the Clinton Global Initiative and hosted by the University of Miami, aimed in part to introduce people working on hurricane recovery projects to potential funders. Those projects are helping Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica build back stronger after last year’s devastating hurricane season.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Monroe County already had one of the highest suicide rates in the state of Florida.

Then came Hurricane Irma. And although most of the debris has been removed from land - and lots of repairs are underway — the storm continues to impact the Keys, almost a year later.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Getting rid of Hurricane Irma debris from the Florida Keys took months and cost tens of millions of dollars. And now the saga has entered the political realm.

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