Marathon city manager won’t give re-entry timeline

For three of the four days since Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, city officials in Marathon had little to no connection to the outside world.

Those attempting to get the city back up and running made contact in person, making short trips across the small island to communicate.

Meanwhile, it was reported frustration continues to swell as residents were not allowed to return to the Middle and Lower Keys yet. Only Upper Keys residents and business owners north of mile marker 73 were given the go-ahead to come back.

Thursday, there was limited Internet connectivity at Marathon City Hall only, at which point City Manager Chuck Lindsey put out a video on Facebook with a bit of information for people near and far.

"We have finally got some communications and right now, Wifi is all we have. We are hoping to have two phone lines today and one line will be dedicated for residents who wish to call in," he said.

Thursday, formal discussions about re-entry started.

"We need to identify all hazards to our residents and the emergency management system to mitigate them before we can open the road," Lindsey said. "But we assure you we want our residents home and are doing everything we can to make it happen."

Power lines remain down and water is being restored in the Middle Keys. Fishermen’s Community Hospital, recently bought by Baptist Health South Florida, remains closed while a pop-up hospital has been set up behind City Hall by the Boston-based Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

There is still no sewer service and no place to take garbage until the Long Key transfer station opens.

"Our Fire Department with Florida Task Force 1 have been going door to door, and we hope to be complete by end of day. To date, the only fatalities we have found are the initial three reported right after the storm passed," he said. "I need to stress this — everyone — the city, county, state and federal agencies are working tirelessly to restore life services. Everyone is doing everything they can and everyone is doing a tremendous job."

Lindsey said the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority is restoring water services, but "We have numerous leaks that are hindering flow, so they are addressing them one by one. But we are optimistic that they can restore water within the next few days."

In regard to looting, Lindsey said there was very little happening throughout the Florida Keys.

Also, fuel is scarce and very limited, he said. The Tom Thumb gas station in Marathon at mile marker 50 oceanside has opened but ran out of fuel quickly.

Publix in Marathon, also at mile marker 50 oceanside, has opened for a few hours each day, but with a limit amount of items. They’re accepting cash only.

On Big Pine, the Winn-Dixie store was open for short hours Wednesday with a limit on items.

Lindsey said he knows people want to get home, but he declined to give an estimated timeline on when people can come back to the city.  

"I don’t want to say a week and not meet your expectation. Instead, I want to give out as much information as I can," he said. "The good news is that everyone here is creating miracles and things are moving fast. The Keys spirit is strong the efforts of our municipalities and our county are incredible."

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219