What’s left of a building owned by Big Pine Key residents George and Joan Thoman is one of the most eye-opening sights when it comes to destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.
“I tell people they can take pictures all they want. I take pictures — we’re all taking pictures,” Joan said Wednesday.
The Thomans, a retired couple from New York, have owned three structures on a property surrounding the end of a canal between Avenues I and J since the early 1980s. One was their home, another was a rental property and the third was used for storage. The Avenues, as the neighborhood is called, was one of the hardest hit on the Lower Keys island during the Category 4 storm from Sept. 9 into Sept. 10.
The top level of the three-story building that was used for storage toppled over onto the first level after the middle blew out during Irma. Their boat, an Island Hopper named Little Suzie II, rose up out of the canal where it was docked and floated about 50 yards away to a neighbor’s yard.
The living room floor in the Thoman’s yellow house is blown out, the tile gone and the underside of the house exposed.
“What are you going to do?” George Thurman, a retired New York City cop, said as Joan looked through possessions left behind from the storage building.
“You roll with the punches,” he said with a smile.
Friday, National Guard members were on-site helping clean up the property, which needs to be cleared as soon as possible so the Federal Emergency Management Agency can put a trailer on it for the Thomans. They’re staying at the Coconut Mallory Resort and Marina in Key West for now.
But they soon will have to leave the resort, as it, too, sustained flood damage during the hurricane and needs to be renovated.
As of Friday, FEMA still had yet to come and inspect the property on Avenue J to make sure a trailer can be hooked up to sewer, water and electric services. It’s a sign the process is moving slowly in a county where Gov. Rick Scott said 10,000 were left homeless by Irma.
Until the trailer arrives, living arrangements are up in the air, Joan said.
The first travel trailers to house displaced hurricane victims arrived in the Keys Sept. 28, but as of Oct. 4, they remained in storage in Key West. It’s not clear if any of them are actually yet housing storm victims.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said in a statement Oct. 3 that “the temporary housing units in Monroe County are staged in Key West for just-in-time delivery to ensure that empty units are not sitting in the public eye. As for a timetable, it is ongoing.”
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219