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“Everything is underwater, I mean everything!”

These words were uttered by Larry Kahn, an editor for the Keynoter, a local Florida Keys newspaper as Hurricane Irma passed overhead early Sunday morning, on September 10th.

Irma slammed into the Keys as a CAT +4 (although some locals will tell you it was actually a CAT +5). Storm surges and powerful winds flooded homes and streets, uprooted trees, downed power lines and tossed around cars, boats, and mobile homes like an angry, spoiled child. The National Weather Service reported the storm’s eye crossed the chain 20 miles from Key West, over the Big Pine, Summerland and Cudjoe Keys.

Sunshine RV park in Big Pine Key

Four months later, we arrived. Due to the wide-spread devastation (and the arrival of the northern snow-birds), finding a place to stay was harder than we ever imagined. The storm damaged about 25% of all homes on the Keys forcing many homeowners to seek shelter at the few undamaged RV parks in the area.

We called just about every campground and RV park along the 113 mile chain of coral islands. Late in the day, we happened to call Bonefish Bay RV park in Marathon. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard those sweet, sweet words, "Sure we have an opening" (a long-term tenant had to return home for a family emergency). Of course, it came at a stiff price: $119 per night. When you're used to paying around $38/night, this was a bitter pill to swallow. Given that this was the only time we were going to be in this area, we jumped. Of course, once again, we found the current residents to be extremely helpful and friendly.

If you've never been to the Keys, they are stunning in their beauty. Swaying palm trees, slow-flapping exotic birds and white sandy beaches melting into a cyan-colored ocean. And everything moves as a slower, laid-back pace. Unbelievable. It's beauty cannot be marred even by the occasional piles of storm debris.

As we drove from Key Largo to Key West, the prevailing spirit is that the Keys will rebuild. Construction is going on everywhere and they want everyone to know that the Keys are open for business. Although it will take a great many months to clean up the debris and clear the canals, and maybe years to completely return to its former glory, many of the locals would just shrug and say: "Hey, it's the Keys".

Here are some pictures we took primarily in Big Pine Key:

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