Florida Keys residents ran into a literal roadblock when trying to get back to their island homes immediately after Hurricane Irma struck Sept. 10.
Evacuees arriving southbound at Florida City found law-enforcement officers limiting access while early efforts to clear roads and remove hazards were underway.
“There are certain health and safety standards that have to be in place,” Monroe County Emergency Management Director Marty Senterfitt said Tuesday.
“It’s a very complex issue as to who comes in and when,” Senterfitt said. “We’re looking for benchmarks that are clearly defined and impartial.”
At 10 a.m. Friday, the county’s Hurricane Evacuation Re-Entry Workshop Group holds an open meeting at the second-floor meeting room of the Marathon Government Center, around mile marker 48.5 bayside.
“We recognize that getting essential personnel immediately into the Keys after the storm became very problematic,” said Kimberly Matthews, senior director of Strategic Planning for Monroe County.
“We’re looking at how that can be done more effectively,” said Matthews, who is spearheading the ad hoc group. “We’re asking the community to help us find ways to help the community recover.”
The 12-member panel includes representatives from law-enforcement and fire-rescue agencies, in addition to managers of businesses that could support response personnel.
People at a series of post-hurricane meetings contended some workers who would have helped recovery efforts where denied access while residents with re-entry windshield stickers were waved through.
“We heard from the community about their major concerns,” Matthews said. “We want to come up with a system that will make them more comfortable returning from an evacuation next time.”
The working group’s final report, likely focusing on improving re-entry procedures and communications with returning residents and property owners, could be delivered to Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi and Senterfitt by mid-April for implementation in the 2018 hurricane season.
Additional meetings at the Marathon Government Center are scheduled March 16, March 23 and possibly April 6. A period for public comments will be scheduled.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206