Filled with festivals, events, history, and beautiful beaches, Key West and the Florida Keys are vacation spots that host crowds of people every year. As of 2013, the number of visitors surpassed the 2.5 million mark according to the Key West Chamber of Commerce. After hurricane Irma hit Florida on September 10, 2017, one of the main concerns was how fast the Florida Keys would reopen and recuperate from this unexpected, overwhelming crisis. After this event, the Florida Keys were devastated, but something had to be done or else tourism rates would start dropping, ultimately affecting Florida’s popularity and economy. Key West and the Florida Keys reopened 19 days before the estimated date of October 20.
Nearly three months have passed, and I took a one day road trip to Key West to assess the recovery. The trip consisted of leaving Miami at 6 a.m. and heading back from Key West in the early evening, documenting everything with pictures.
Driving through the keys, the roads were in good shape, but there was some encountering debris. In Cross Key, we started seeing fallen trees, but they were part of the plants that surrounded the road and did not affect our driving in any way. It was when we started driving through Key Largo that we started seeing piles of leaves, tree branches, and plants piled on the sides of the road. From that moment on, the debris increased. Overall, Key Largo was the one in the worst condition. Piles of debris were collected at the side of the road—sometimes piling onto it as well. The few broken tree branches on the side of the road were eventually replaced by items such as toilet seats, spare car pieces, plastic, and scattered furniture. “The road itself was completely clear of any dangerous debris, undoubtedly an effort made in the immediate days after the hurricane to enable a needed income of supplies. However, if a car were to momentarily lose control and slid off the road, the debris that has been left on the sides would be a serious hazard,” says sophomore Beatriz Rodriguez, who joined me in the trip.
In Key West, everything looked as clean as it looked when I visited four years ago. As Key West is a common tourist spot, authorities did not take long to restore and reopen the island. Soon everything was back to normal. Key West was hosting tourists again and in the process of regaining its movement.Overall, the drive there was great, except for Key Largo, which is yet to be cleaned up properly. However, Key West’s recovery shows us that it does not take long for a place to be restored and reopened when there is a great need, which gives us hope that the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida affected by hurricane Irma will be soon restored and back to normal. “I would still recommend Key West as a vacation spot despite the hurricane. The drive is safe if the driver is alert and experienced. The island has lost no beauty, and it is important to support its healing by visiting and showing the world just how strong humanity can be”, Rodriguez added.