MONROE COUNTY, Fla. - It has been four days since Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key and the residents who stayed behind were still under a strictly enforced "dusk-to-dawn" curfew Thursday.
The storm surge swept in boats from the ocean like toys and flooded parked cars and campers. The 700 or so residential and commercial buildings took a beating from the fury of the 130 mph sustained winds.
Search and rescue teams were still looking through debris and under homes raised on stilts. Most of the 1,700 residents of the key evacuated before the storm.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said every house on the Florida Keys was impacted in some way. Even the concrete homes on stilts suffered some damage. Big Pine, Little Torch, Summerland and Sugarloaf keys got the worst of the storm.
According to Karen Clark & Co., a leading catastrophe-modeling firm, the estimated insured losses from Irma in the U.S. were $18 billion and most of the devastation was in the Florida Keys, particularly to the east of the Cudjoe Key landfall.
The days ahead were difficult for residents of the Florida Keys, but they were not alone. The Department of Defense took over the area to help FEMA and state and local authorities deal with the mess the Category 4 storm left behind.
While U.S. Southern Command was dealing with the evacuation of American citizens from St. Martin to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Northern Command was operating in South Florida.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers were assisting with road blocks and not allowing anyone to travel south of Mile Marker 73. Some of the evacuees were running out of money and were eager to come back home to assess the damage, but only those who stayed behind remained in the Florida Keys.
Patricia Morrow, a domestic worker, took refuge at her employer's house in Islamorada, a village of some 6,600 residents. She decided to stay, because she knew it would be hard to get back in.
"We are fortunate enough we have most of our belongings and memories," Morrow said. "You can replace little things, but you can't replace life."
Cammy Clark, Monroe County's public information officer, said eight people died during the storm. At the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center, there was a rush to prevent a worsening health emergency during a humanitarian crisis.
ABC News Victor Oquendo and the Local 10 News Assignment Desk Team contributed to this report.
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