Task of clearing land debris still ongoing in Keys after Hurricane Irma

20 miles of Keys still recovering, Monroe County administrator says

KEY LARGO, Fla. – Four months after Hurricane Irma, there are parts of the Florida Keys that are doing much better, but the task of clearing land debris is not over yet. 

"So far, about 2.3 million cubic yards of debris have been picked up from the Keys. About half of that was in the hardest hit area," Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi said.

But some of the destruction from Irma remains, and residents are doing their best to facilitate the process and clear debris themselves.

"Well, the county is coming, picking up all this trash in our community. So one of the guys came in and told us there's a lot near the fence that they can't pick up, so if we volunteer and put it near the road, they'll pick it up for us," Key Largo resident Mike Minch said.

Minch lives in Key Largo's Silver Shores retirement community. He and his neighbors frequently rake and help out however they can.

"(We've) made a lot of progress. We're probably at 80 percent back to where we need to be," he said.

County crews are now making their final passes for debris cleanup.

"Overall, probably another two or three weeks," Gastesi said.

But harder hit areas in the Middle to Lower Keys may need more time.

"Those areas take four or five or six passes for us to come back, and then they have more debris. (It) just takes a lot more effort to clean up those areas," Gastesi said.
"They got their hands full, and I think they're doing a really good job," Minch added. 

But there are places with signs of normalcy, like The Hungry Tarpon.

"We're very fortunate," restaurant general manager Shantel Loftus said. "I mean, it could've been a lot worse. There's hotels that still haven't opened. A lot of people lost their jobs, lost homes."

The restaurant's wooden deck was destroyed during Hurricane Irma.

"We actually had some pretty heavy damage. All of our decking was completely gone. We were three feet under water," Loftus said. "Things that you thought would blow away stayed, and things you thought would stay blew away. All the dollar bills stayed. We didn't take any down. They're all still here."

After extensive repairs, the place looks as good as new.

"Come on down. We're ready," Loftus said. "I mean, there's damage. You'll see it, but everyone's recovering fairly well. For what happened, we're doing pretty good."

Gastesi said there are 120 miles of the Keys, and 20 miles are struggling after the hurricane.

"We're working as fast as we can. The rest of the Keys is open for business," he said.
"We're still here. Businesses are still here," Minch said. "We need people from the mainland to come here and keep them afloat."

Monroe County's three transfer stations are still offering free disposal of residential hurricane debris, which will continue for a few more weeks.

The county charges $123.50 per ton for contractors and landscapers.

Sunday was the last day to put hurricane debris on county and private roads in the Mile Marker 28 to 40 area, which includes Little Torch, Big Pine and No Name keys.

Below are the addresses and hours of operation for the county's transfer stations.

Hours of operation: 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

  • Cudjoe Key: Blimp Road, turn at MM 21.5 off U.S. 1. 
  • Long Key: Mile Marker 68 on Overseas Highway.
  • Key Largo, 11100 County Road.

Click here for more information about debris removal in Monroe County. 

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