8 deaths related to Hurricane Irma reported in Florida Keys

Search-and-rescue teams go door-to-door in hardest hit areas after storm

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor , Michael Seiden - Reporter

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. - Eight deaths related to Hurricane Irma have been reported in the Florida Keys as of Wednesday, Monroe County officials said. 

Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the deaths were "both storm-related and due to natural causes."

She said two of the deaths happened in Key West and the other six occurred in other parts of the county. 

Search-and-rescue teams are going door-to-door Wednesday in the hardest-hit areas of the Keys following the storm.

Those areas include Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, where the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane over the weekend.

Clark said in a news release that military personnel have helped local law enforcement personnel break through debris to assist in the search for people who stayed home during the storm.

"We know that many people are worried about family members and friends who stayed in the Keys during Hurricane Irma and now cannot be reached," Clark said. "The major reason for not being able to reach people is the lack of communication capability in the Keys. Most of the Keys are without internet or cell service."

Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden spoke to one couple in Sugarloaf Key who rode out the store wearing life jackets.

"I was on my Facebook until the Wifi went out -- that was about 2:30 a.m., so my kids don't even know that I'm still alive," Susan Aldrich said.

Aldrich and her husband help run a restaurant in the area and were committed to serving food to their community as people who evacuated made their way back home this week.

"Riding out this storm was very scary, because we had tornadoes going through here and it was crazy," Aldrich's husband said.  

Only 7 percent of people from the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West currently have power, according to Keys Energy Services.

Clark said this includes power to the Monroe County Assisted Living Facility, whose generator failed. 

Keys Energy Services crews have been working to restore power up to Sugarloaf at about mile marker 17 and are expecting more crews to work in Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key on Wednesday.

Power is expected to be restored Wednesday at the Key West Resort Utilities, which includes the sewer treatment plant.

The Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which services the rest of the Keys, reports that 30 percent of its clients now have power.

"We expect that percentage to go up significantly today," Scott Newberry, with the cooperative, said.

Mariners Hospital and the Plantation Key jail have power, as well as several firehouses and government buildings.

Re-entry into the Keys remains limited to residents and business owners in the Upper Keys to mile marker 73 as crews work to clear debris from roads and inspect all bridges in the area.

Seiden spoke to one man Wednesday who said that he lost his business to Hurricane Irma. 

"I lost my purpose in life for a moment. You know, I don't know what to do," Patrick Garby said.  

Clark said the Florida Department of Transportation will inspect county bridges that are not on U.S. Route 1. before other residents and business owners are able to get into the Lower Keys. 

Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport are open only for emergency response flights.

"There is still no commercial service or general aviation until further notice," Clark said.

Clark said about 2,000 members of the National Guard are in the Keys to help with communications and work at the county distribution points where food and water will be given out.

The distribution points are located at the 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 Fourth Street parking lot near the soccer field in Bahama Village in Old Town Key West. 

Water restrictions are in place and water should only be used for sanitation purposes, Clark said. 

Water will be turned on from 10 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Key West and Stock Island.

There is still a precautionary boil water notice in effect for all of the Keys.

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