FLORIDA — This is the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, said that based on initial estimates, 25 percent of the houses on the chain of islands have been destroyed, and that every house in the keys was impacted by Irma’s wrath in some way.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Bill Nelson flew over the devastation to parts of Key West, where Irma brought sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour on Sunday — submerging the highway that connects the archipelago to the tip of southern Florida with the mainland.
Some Florida keys residents have been allowed to return to their damaged homes.
“Well again, I hate to say it because it was bad, could have been a lot worse, could have been catastrophic. Clearly, there’s gonna be a lot of work ahead, it’s going to be a long time before life is back to normal in the Keys,” said Rubio.
Prior to Irma’s arrival, some 6.5 million in southern Florida, about a third of the sunshine state’s population, were ordered to evacuate their homes.
While discouraged by authorities, many of them came home to check on their properties, including this Filipino.
His hurricane-proof home was intact, but his backyard was a big mess.
A balimbing or star fruit and Atis tree were among those knocked down by Irma’s strong outer band wind gusts.
“We figured if the real eye came to us, a lot of trees would be down,” said Mario Magclas. “This Filipino left his home thinking that it would be the last time he would see it.”
Flood waters turned his swimming pool into a mud pool.
“I’m really thankful that none of us got hurt, all of us are in good shape, the house is also in good shape,” said Josel Suarez. “We never lost a tile on his roof. I was expecting to lose several tiles, I was prepared for it.”
As Floridians painstakingly try to recover from Irma’s devastation to their properties, they also have to deal with massive power outages.
The Department of Homeland Security says about 15 million people are without power across the state.