New Tropical Storm Maria to become a hurricane

The National Hurricane Center was monitoring Hurricane Jose, Tropical Storm Lee and Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic Ocean. The Sunday morning advisory warned Tropical Storm Maria was expected to strengthen into a hurricane and appro…

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New Tropical Storm Maria to become a hurricane

The National Hurricane Center was monitoring Hurricane Jose, Tropical Storm Lee and Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic Ocean. The Saturday afternoon advisory warned Tropical Storm Maria was expected to strengthen into a hurricane and approa…

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New Tropical Storm Maria threatens Leeward Islands

The National Hurricane Center was monitoring Hurricane Jose, Tropical Storm Lee and Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic Ocean. The Saturday afternoon advisory warned Tropical Storm Maria was expected to strengthen into a hurricane and approa…

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Monroe County reopens Florida Keys to residents after Hurricane Irma

Monroe County evacuees, who waited anxiously after Hurricane Irma, were making their way back home Sunday, but not without Mayor George Nugent’s warning. 

“The Keys are not what you left several days ago when you evacuated,” Nugent said during a Saturday afternoon press conference. 

Authorities reopened the Florida Keys’ Marathon area until mile marker 47, just north of the Seven Mile Bridge, Saturday and the Lower Keys Sunday.  Only those who were able to prove they were residents, business owners or disaster workers were allowed.

“Know that medical services, food, water and electricity are extremely limited,” Monroe County spokesperson Cammy Clark said. 

Residents waited in line to pass through a checkpoint in Florida City. Emotions were high as some were denied entry. Tourists were still not allowed in the Florida Keys. 

“Have all your supplies,” Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi said. “Supplies are very limited.”

The second checkpoint at mile marker 47 reopened Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Authorities were asking residents to bring provisions and medications to sustain themselves for several days. Services are almost non-existent.

“There is no functioning hospital to admit patients in the Middle or Lower Keys,” Clark said. “Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon is not open and the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West only has its emergency room open.”

For nearly a week after the Category 4 storm made landfall on Cudjoe Key, access beyond mile marker 74 was limited only to government employees, search-and-rescue personnel, some volunteers and credentialed journalists. 

“We’ve been very lucky 12 years since Wilma. This is the big one that we have been practicing for,” Gastesi said. 

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, Keys Energy Services and The Florida Keys Electric Coop reported making progress, but the majority of the area remained without power. There was a boil water order. And with FEMA reporting the majority of the buildings were damaged, many residents will find themselves homeless and it is going to be hot this week. 
“What ever you do, do not drink the water,” Monroe County director of emergency management Marty Senterfitt said. 
Authorities in the Caribbean and the U.S. reported Hurricane Irma-related circumstances left 74 people dead. Nine of those deaths were in Monroe County and that number could grow as residents head back to hard-hit areas. 
Deputies identified a 62-year-old man found dead Saturday in Big Pine Key but they had yet to notify his family. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin said detectives were struggling to identify four  white men who were found dead. 

Three of the men have grey hair and wore a beard. Rescue personnel found one under rubble on 28th Street in Marathon, another was in a partially sunken boat offshore of Stock Island and another — who was wearing a red life jacket — was across from the Big Pine Key cemetery.
A 59-year-old man who was injured after falling was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital, but he also has yet to be identified. 
Gastesi said making a decision about when to allow residents to return to the areas destroyed was tough. 
“We know there will be many challenges ahead, especially for our hardest hit areas in the Lower Keys, but we want our residents and business owners to come back to rebuild their lives, their livelihoods and our economy,” Gastesi said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency was still involved in the recovery effort. They were working in coordination with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
FEMA announced the U.S. Postal Service resumed delivery and retail operations in Key Largo and Tavernier, and the Social Security Cycle 3 payments will be delivered Sept. 20. The National Guard continued their search and rescue efforts this weekend. 
“There is a heavy law enforcement presence in that area to prevent looting and provide security,” Clark said. 
The U.S. Coast Guard worked with the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Key West to open the shipping channel from the sea buoy to the Mole Pier. The Port of Key West reopened with restrictions Friday.  
“Our goal is to fully open the Port of Key West for all navigational needs as soon as possible, but we first have an obligation to ensure safety of the port and vessels,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jeffrey Janszen, the commander of the Key West sector. 
The Federal Aviation Administration was sending a large mobile air traffic control tower to Key West. 
 “We are prepared to restore the Keys back to the special paradise we love,” Gastesi said. 
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. The Department of Health and Human Services activated their 1-800-985-5990 helpline. 
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. The Fresco y Más Grocery Store will start distributing free ice at 10 a.m. 
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.
HAZARDS AT SEA: The U.S. Coast Guard was asking the public to report hazards to navigation at 304-433-3352.



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Irma’s debris remains; many relieved damage isn’t worse

Constantine Tagaras was not in his yellow catering van when it was hit by a tree.

Instead, he was hunkered down inside his Davie apartment. He only saw the result after Hurricane Irma had passed.

“I heard the tree just snap and then it hit the roof (of) the building off the balcony and then it landed on top of my truck,” Tagaras said. “If it was just a vehicle, then we’ll bear with it for now.”

The top of the van now has a large dent and its front windshield is smashed in. But the business with which the vehicle is affiliated, Potatopia, will be back open Wednesday.

Farther north, near Margate, the heavy equipment has been rolled out and crews have stayed busy removing and clearing away more downed trees.

The work is time consuming but necessary as people in the region breathe a sigh of relief with the storm’s passing.

“When they were talking about a (Category) 5, we were scared,” said Dana Aiello, who was seen Tuesday cleaning up after the hurricane. “We boarded up the house real quick. (It was) very fortunate that it went the direction that it did and (we’re) glad everybody is safe.”

Just next door, a sign sits out front, reading “We survived Irma.”

It seems many people in the Tamarind Village development just sustained minimal damage.

However, not far away, another hazard was spotted on Lyons Road, just south of Sample.

Orange cones were seen blocking the northbound lanes, where downed trees made a portion of the block impassable. Mixed in with the downed debris, dangerous power lines also lined the road.

A transformer was tossed aside from the storm’s heavy winds.

Meanwhile, in Davie on Tuesday night, Tagaras was still working to dig out his work van.

“I did some work on it last night,” he said. “(I’m) just trying to get into the vehicle, but maintenance came through and they did a good job.”

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Many in Miami Beach spend 4th night without power

Although officials with Florida Power & Light said Tuesday that they’re working to restore the grid, entire neighborhoods in Miami Beach are about to spend a fourth night in the dark and in clammy heat.

Many intersections remain without working traffic signals as crews work to reconnect the area.

“We have to clear the feeder lines before we can clear distribution lines and get everybody powered up,” electrician Darren Gaine said.

Gaine spoke with Local 10 News outside a housing complex for the elderly that is among the apartment buildings without power.

When asked if he knew when to expect electricity, resident Bernie Collazo said, “They say maybe tomorrow, but (it’s) hard to tell.”

In the meantime, city crews pushed through the sweltering heat to pick up debris, such as a tree canopy toppled by Hurricane Irma.

Some stores have started removing their boards, and other businesses and restaurants have opened for business. Still, cleanup will take more time.

“Everybody is losing money,” one man on Ocean Drive said. “It’s Mother Nature. You can’t do anything about it.”

“That’s all we can do,” he said. 

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