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‘After the storm, I had three more boats than I used to.’

Hurricane Irma's surge destroyed furniture and possessions, piled and wait for collection, when the surge tore through a Tavernier oceanside neighborhood near mile marker 92.
Hurricane Irma's surge destroyed furniture and possessions, piled and wait for collection, when the surge tore through a Tavernier oceanside neighborhood near mile marker 92. FlKeysNews.com

Decades of memories and once-useful things lay in a large pile outside his Tavernier home, but longtime resident Roger Hoke found a bright spot in Hurricane Irma’s wake.

"After the storm, I had three more boats than I used to," he chuckled Sept. 15. "There was a 14-foot skiff, a paddleboard and a kayak in our yard."

Added wife Betty, "And we have some nice collectibles, from somebody else’s home."

The Hokes stayed in their stilt house on Canal Street, but the surge from Irma climbed three to four feet high as it swept through their full downstairs storage area.

"Our sliding glass door was shuttered, but we spent four hours leaning against the glass when the wind started to bow it in," Roger recounted.

"I finally found a little radio station to get some news," he said. "We had no power, no nothing."

But the only Upper Keys station they found "just played all this damned happy music, in the middle of the storm. What is wrong with you?"

Despite the drama of the powerful storm, the 47-year Keys residents say they do not regret their decision to stay in Tavernier.

"I was totally confident in our house. I helped build it, so I knew it wasn’t going anywhere," Roger said.

It was only the second time in their 30 years in the same house that they suffered any surge damage, and the first time "was an inch or two," Betty said.

"I’m glad we stayed so we could right here to save some things the next day," Roger said, crediting daughter Julie Eakin and her husband for helping clean the yard.

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