Scott wants to have tourists return to Keys by October

Monroe County open only to residents, remains under curfew

MARATHON, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott set an ambitious deadline Monday to bring tourism back to the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma.

Scott said he hopes to have tourists return to the island chain by Oct. 1.

He was joined by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as they met with Monroe County officials in Marathon to discuss recovery efforts.

The Keys remain closed to anyone who is not a resident or working in an official capacity with the relief effort.

Scott, who has touted himself as the jobs governor, said he wants to have people in the Keys back to work as quickly as possible.

Price said he will work to grant a federal waiver so that medical crews from out-of-state can come to the Keys to help.

"We've got a long road to go," Price said.

Gov. Rick Scott speaks with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center in Marathon.
Gov. Rick Scott speaks with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center in Marathon.

Marty Senterfitt, Monroe County's emergency management director, said he is going to try to get people out of shelters and into temporary trailers until they can find a permanent solution.

About 10,000 homes in the Florida Keys are uninhabitable following the storm, which is about 20 percent of all homes in Monroe County.

Many homes had their roofs ripped off, as others sustained severe flooding. 

Some residents were forced to throw out all of their belongings because of the damage. 

"(It's) very emotional. It's everything that you have," Aimee Rodriguez said. "It's very hard that you come into a home and it's empty, and the appliances and the cost -- it's unreal."

In order to pass the checkpoint into the Keys at Florida City, at least one occupant in a vehicle must show proof of residence, either with a photo identification or documentation that shows residency in the Keys.

All of Monroe County remains under a curfew. In the upper Keys to mile marker 47 at the north end of the Seven Mile Bridge, the curfew is 10 p.m. until sunrise. In the lower Keys and Key West, it remains from dusk until dawn.

The Florida City checkpoint closes at 8 p.m. to ensure that everyone has enough time to get to their destinations before curfew.

Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said anyone out after the designated times is subject to arrest.

Meanwhile, the road block in Florida City will be lifted at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday as many people need to bring in family, friends and contractors to begin work on their properties.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay said officers will be patrolling neighborhoods for looters, curfew violators and anyone who appears suspisious. 

"We will not tolerate people who take advantage of our citizens," Ramsay said in a statement. "If we catch people looting, committing theft or burglary, price gouging or committing fraud of any kind, we will do everything we can put the offenders in jail."

Dozens of road blocks in the Middle and Lower Keys will remain in place. 

The Florida Department of Health is advising residents to boil their water until further notice. Health officials said well water may contain disease-causing organisms and may not be safe to drink.

About the Authors: