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A year after the Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys ‘still a world of pain’

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Hurricane Irma: A year later

Fox News correspondent Phil Keating in Florida’s recovery efforts after the Hurricane Irma.

BIG PINE KEY, Florida. As the Carolinas brace for a dragon of a Category 4 hurricane marching their way, many still remember the last powerful storm to hit the U.S. mainland one year ago today.

On Sept. 10 of last year, the Hurricane Irma blew in the Lower Florida Keys, for making a second landfall on Marco Island as the storm heads in the direction of Tampa. Many in the Keys continue to struggle.

Especially charter boat captains such as Scott Leopold.

Breaks into tears, he said that it was a very difficult year. He remains emotionally.

“Yes,” he said, while he with tears in his eyes. “But we did it, we are happy, we are healthy.”

He lost months of the charter boat business on his ship, the fred and barney Dabba Do, and said today that he is still only 80 percent back to normal.

“There are a number of captains who threw the towel in the ring. They sold their boats, or just moved to a private work elsewhere,” he said. “Oh, god.”

The last time that Fox New met Clay Crocket was as he walked to his house and events catering company to see, for the first time, what was left.

“If you remember the last time that we couldn’t even walk in this kind of things,” he said. He estimates Irma cost him a few hundred thousand dollars, including orders for Florida Keys Hot Sauces which he could not fill.

And he still has a hole in the roof.

“I would rather try to go forward,” Crocket said. “The past year was a very difficult year. To move forward, I don’t want to stare at it too hard in the face, because the future is what I’m looking for.” Much of the challenge for the tourism-dependent Keys economy was the thousands of hotel rooms lost. None of the rooms, no tourists, no business, and no money to make.

Last week, the iconic Hawk’s Cay Resort finally reopened, with its 450 rooms. Most hotels expect to be fully renovated and reopened by the end of the year.

Hurricane Irma destroyed 25 percent of the homes in the Keys, including 3,000 trailers. Finding new, affordable housing remains a major challenge. The St. Columba Episcopal Church in Marathon is the help. He bought an old apartment building to rehabilitate, to provide small apartments for the working class.

“Although it’s nice and fun here, it is still a world of pain,” said Debra Andrew Maconaughey, St. Columba’s rector.

And the Florida Keys Land Trust is the building of 750 square meters houses on a hard hit Big Pine Key. They raised 12 metres above the ground. The first four cottages are now online. The list to move to for a long time.

Many Irma victims gave up and dropped the Keys, move north to rebuild their lives. Many lost everything. But for those who have chosen to remain, despite the annual hurricane threat, their resilience to survive.

“You will not see the improvements, but Islamorada looks great,” said Leopold. “They really do have the whole city back together.”

Fox News producer Ivonne Amor contributed to this report. She can be reached at @ivonneamor1 .

Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC’s Miami based correspondent.

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