Hurricane Irma-related circumstances leave at least 74 dead

Search-and-rescue effort continues in the Florida Keys

By Janine Stanwood - Anchor/Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer, Ian Margol - Reporter, Derek Shore - Reporter

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. - Federal Emergency Management Agency's FL-TF2 canine worked under the hot sun and through dangerous debris and ruin in Big Pine Key Friday. The stench of seaweed thrown ashore didn't seem to confuse his dazzling sense of smell. 

There were dead iguanas and a dead Key deer. The highly-trained dog was part of one of the many specialized teams searching for people who could still be trapped under the destruction that Hurricane Irma left behind in the Florida Keys. 

"Search and rescue teams have gone door to door to nearly 15,000 homes throughout the Keys," Monroe County spokesperson Cammy Clarke said in a statement. "They are about 98 percent completed." 

At least 74 people have died in storm-related circumstances. Authorities in the U.S. have reported 36 deaths and authorities in the Caribbean reported 38 deaths. Florida recorded eight of those deaths, including five of natural causes, happened in the Keys.   

The aftermath of the storm has been just as dangerous as the storm surge and powerful winds. Without power restored to some 1.9 million homes in Florida, carbon monoxide poisoning from generators and heat-related deaths were still a threat. 

The Department of Defense and state and local authorities had some safety measures in place. A boil-water notice is in effect. There was still a curfew, but it was from 10 p.m. to sunrise in the Upper Keys and from dusk-to-dawn everywhere else.  

According to the U.S. Coast Guard navigation was limited and The Port of Key West was likely to remain closed over the weekend. 

Many have been sleeping outside and dealing with swarms of indefatigable mosquitoes since the storm hit Sunday. The Upper Keys area was recovering, and Key West will likely reopen soon, but residents below mile marker 73 were still not allowed in the Lower Keys late Friday night. 
"They are dealing with making sure the sewer system works, making sure there is water, make sure you have power," Gov. Rick Scott said. 

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, Keys Energy Services and The Florida Keys Electric Coop reported making progress. But once residents are allowed back in their neighborhoods many will find that they are homeless. 
ACCESS TO SHELTERS: The Red Cross opened shelters at Marathon Middle High School, 250 Sobrero Beach Rd., and Island Christian High School, 83400 Overseas Hwy., in Islamorada. They were also getting ready to open shelters at Sugarloaf High School, 255 Crane Blvd., in Summerland Key, Key West High School, 2100 Flagler Ave., and Coral Shores High School, 89901 Old Hwy., in Tavernier. 
ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE: Also in Tavernier, the Mariners Hospital opened Friday. The Community Health for South Florida also opened its Tavernier Health Center, 91200 Overseas Highway, for primary care and pediatric services. There were also medical care stations at Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island and at Marathon City Hall.
WHERE TO FIND WATER: There was a precautionary boil water notice in effect. The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority workers were distributing water from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in Summerland Key on Horace Street, Big Pine Key on Drinka Road, and at the Big Coppitt Pump Station on U.S. 1 at Mile Marker 10. 
WHERE TO FIND ICE: Winn-Dixie and Sanderson Farms were giving free ice to Big Pine Key residents at 251 Key Deer Blvd.
WHERE TO FIND FOOD: There were food distribution centers at Coral Shores High School, 89901 Old Hwy., in Tarvernier; Marathon High School, 350 Sombrero Beach Rd.; Sugarloaf School, 255 Crane Blvd., in Summerland Key; Searstown Shopping Center at 3316 N. Roosevelt Blvd.; and the National Key Deer Refuge Office 179 Key Deer Blvd., Big Pine Key.  
LIMITED COMMUNICATION: Cell phones were down, but those who could make it to The Green Parrot at 601 Whitehead St., in Key West had access to a coveted landline. Monroe County has an information hotline: 1-800-955-5504.


Copyright 2017 by WPLG The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.