City of Key West officials want residents who evacuated for Hurricane Irma to start coming home beginning Sunday.
The Southernmost City wasn’t hit as bad with wind and surge as other Lower Keys like Cudjoe, Summerland, Ramrod, Little Torch and Big Pine, all of which suffered severe damage that will take months or longer to repair.
“Our damage was significantly less than elsewhere and our recovery has been fairly speedy,” Key West City Manager Jim Scholl said during a Friday night conference call with local, state and federal officials.
“We’re at the point where we can accept the return on Sunday,” Scholl told his colleagues.
Crews from Keys Energy Services, Key West’s power utility, have restored about 50 percent of the city’s electricity, General Manager and CEO Lynne Tejeda said.
Since the Lower Keys in between Key West and Marathon are in such a disastrous state, Scholl said it would be a good idea to get Key West residents home so they could open hotels to house contractors needed to work in the badly-hit areas.
Upper Keys residents were allowed back to their homes and businesses earlier this week, and the city of Marathon wants its people back by Sunday night, at latest. Scholl said this would give officials an opportunity to “surround the problem and be able to help from here.”
An obstacle to Scholl’s plan to allow those with a “Key West zip code” back in is going to be where to put police checkpoints set up to keep unauthorized people out of the Keys. As of Friday, the checkpoints were in Florida City on the mainland and mile marker 73 on Lower Matecumbe Key.
Following Marathon City Manager Chuck Lindsey’s announcement Friday afternoon that residents in his town may be able to return this weekend, officials considered moving the Lower Matecumbe checkpoint to the southern end of the city before the Seven Mile Bridge.
But if it remained there for a Key West re-entry, Lindsey said he worried that would cause traffic backups in his city, which was also severely damaged by the Category 4 Irma.
“It’s our only artery guys,” Lindsey said during the call.