Hurricane Irma - Key West - After the Storm

Real Estate Agent with Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc.

Earlier I blogged about Key West before the storm hit our town. I used photos to show how Key West prepared to meet what Chad Myers on CNN predicted as a 'catastrophic' hurricane.  He warned of a tidal surge of ten to fifteen feet and winds that would wipe out all the old wood houses in Key West. In my earlier blog I  detailed why I elected to stay in the newly constructed building located behind the soon to open Marquesa 4-1-4 Hotel on Simonton Street. The new building was constructed to withstand winds of 200 MPH. I have stayed in all other hurricanes except one since I moved to Key West 24 years ago. I wasn't worried about the winds as I know our old houses were built to withstand the winds despite what Mr. Myers thinks. His non-stop warning about the ten foot tidal surge scared so many locals that they ended up fleeing on the Thursday and Friday before the storm. My second floor room was beyond reach of a surge if one were to occur.


We lost power around 8:00 PM the night before the storm. Key West. I took a sleeping pill and went to sleep rather than fret about what might happen. I woke up the next morning to brisk blowing winds, but I experienced worse during Hurricane Wilma which were accompanied by driving rain. I looked out and found lots of tree limbs had snapped including ancient mahoganies on Simonton Street. In my opinion Key West stood up strongly to a powerful category 4 hurricane - perhaps a once in a century kind of event. We incurred major tree damage across the island, but we did not suffer building losses and flooding predicted by CNN and others. The storm was massive in size and took several hours to pass by Key West. Around 3:00 PM I left my hotel room to survey what had happened.

Mahogany trees on Simonton Street snapped. A large mahogany in the 300 block of Simonton had toppled. I knew this was not good. Was it an omen of other losses? I walked over to Duval Street. I could see standing water down toward the Pier House and decided not to go there. Instead I walked east on Caroline Street where I found another majestic tree toppled at the entry to the Curry Mansion.

As I head east on Eaton Street noticed the totally exposed renovation going on at 704 Eaton Street (mentioned in my earlier blog about construction projects in Key West). The back end of the house was removed as part of the renovation. This house withstood the winds of our Category 4 hurricane. That is something you did not see on CNN.  It does not fit the scare tactics CNN and other networks use to hype hurricanes. Readers need to understand that TV networks get viewers by making events seem worse than they are. Irma devastated the Lower Keys but it did not devastate Key West.


I walked east along Eaton Street another fifty feet or so and spotted another huge tree at the corner of William Street. As I got close I could see the huge old banyan tree next to the Eaton Street Seafood Market had totally uprooted. Note the propane tank hanging midair.  It took about four days to clear the street from this monster tree. I stopped to talk to a multi-generation Conch who told me to go over to the 600 block of William where three large banyans had fallen. On my way I noticed several banyans at the Harris School on Southard Street at Margaret had also fallen.

I could not believe my eyes when I got to the 600 block of William .  I saw one huge banyan toppled into the street. I looked south and saw another that had fallen against the late Shel Silvertein's former house - about 75 feet up the street. As I walked closer I could see that two separate trees had uprooted and fallen into the house. I went back the next day to take more photos as the pics I took on Sunday were all obscured by the haze and moisture in the air.  I took the photo immediately above in February 2017 which shows the north banyan tree which uprooted and fell into Shel Silverstein's house.

I then walked one block south to the end of William Street. I turned right to walk up Windsor Lane when I notice two more large trees had fallen into the lane. I recognized the house as I sold it a few years ago. It was the former home of writer John Hersey. Even though the trees uprooted on either side of this cottage, it did not appear to have been damaged in the process.

 The day after the storm I walked up and down Duval Street and Whitehead Street to see if either had sustained any significant damage. I can report the buildings stood up strong to wind. Margaritaville and the other icons were not damaged. There were individual businesses that tree damage which may alter the way they appear and function. The buildings were not damaged from what I saw. There is one house located at the far end of Fleming Street which I wrote about a couple of years ago. Two giant banyans stood sentry at the front of the lot obscuring the house from view. Maybe that house will now sell since the banyans are no more. Key West lost a lot of trees - Mahogany, Royal Poinciana, Gumbo Limbo, Sapadillo, and Banyans. But there are many that were not damages or only slightly damaged. Palm trees that were lost can be replaced. They thrive.

CLICK HERE to view more photos some of which do not appear in either blog. Readers may freely use any of these photos.  Readers are encouraged to visit Key West again or to come for the first time. We endured a major Category 4 hurricane. Our homes and businesses withstood the winds.  I have not been outside of Key West yet. I know there is major damage in the Lower Keys but have been told by people who seen the damage that the homes impacted were built prior to the strict building codes adopted by Florida after Hurricane Andrew and subsequent. The use of modern building materials does save property and lives.  Old Town is bouncing back and is already open for business. 


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Gary Thomas
Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. - Key West, FL

Hi Wayne. I usually take a sleeping pill because I wake up too early. This storm did not scare me. 

A fellow agent in my office fled on the Friday night before the storm. She lived here her entire life - 52 years. She said CNN got her so rattled on Friday night that she, her husband, her 90 year old mother, and four cats left Key West in the dark of night and went to Miami. The day of the storm, she lost power and still did not have power where she stayed until she returned to Key West on Thursday. She said Miami was a nightmare. No electricity, no water, no ice. She said she will never leave home again.


Sep 23, 2017 06:13 AM #2
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I guess as bad as it looks it could have been a whole lot worse especially seeing what happened in Puerto Rico.

Sep 23, 2017 01:46 PM #3
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Gary- I too am amazed at your very thorough knowledge of Key West. I was thinking of you and everyone in the Keys during and after IRMA. The Keys we were shown were the Upper Keys. You can see that the newer construction stood up well. So glad you shared these with us because I had no idea what to expect. Keep the pics coming. 

Sep 23, 2017 01:47 PM #4
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

                   Thank you Gary Thomas 

Sep 23, 2017 05:22 PM #5
Andy Kogerma

your smug disregard and arrogant dismissal of the power of hurricanes has turned me from a regular reader to a former reader. "Scare tactics"? Try telling that to the residents of Puerto Rico, who may be without power for 6 months in their ENTIRE country. You should be ashamed, posting such self-serving clearly commercially driven bs. We know you want to sell property, but now you appear to have sold your moral compass as well.

Sep 23, 2017 08:16 PM #6
Gary Thomas
Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. - Key West, FL

Hey Andy,  I have lived through 24 years of hurricanes.  They produce a lot of wind and often a lot of rain. The houses in Puerto Rico and the Carribean are built differently than those in Key West. Florida adopted stringent building codes after Hurricane Andrew which are enforced across the state. I have not seen the Lower Keys damage for myself - yet. But I have been told the new construction stood up to the winds.

I am the least smug guy out there. I am going to continue to sell houses to people who want to buy in Key West. It is a great place to live all year long or for the part of the year when people up north in America are freezing.  I want buyers to feel safe in their decision to buy. They can look at the houses that survived the "catastrophic" Category 4 hurricane and see for themselves the damage or lack thereof.  I did not post any bs as you call it. There was a lof of bs in the media. 


Sep 24, 2017 04:24 AM #7
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Gary - the uprooted trees are major and will take some time but it looks like the newer construction has withstood the storm.   The Key's are going to recover stronger!

Sep 24, 2017 06:16 AM #8
Michael Jacobs
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena Area Real Estate 818.516.4393

Hi, Gary -- I came here via Kathy Streib and her weekly "light bulb" post.  Thank you for providing your man-on-the-street perspective to Key West with commentary and photos(both current and historical).  

Sep 24, 2017 06:27 AM #9
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

OK....a sleeping pill?  I am far too much a control freak to put myself asleep before an expected hurricane. LOL

GREAT photos!

Sep 24, 2017 07:11 AM #10
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Such a powerful post...and the pictures are so powerful as well....thanks for sharing

Sep 24, 2017 07:35 AM #11
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Gary. I thought about you all through the Hurricane Coverage. I'm glad you are OK and have not found the destruction that was forecast.

Sep 24, 2017 07:57 AM #12
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Gary

Thanks for the thoughtful coverage of the hurrican damage and your photos. So glad to hear it ended up not being as bad as forecasted but clearly lots to clean up and recover from nonetheless. Keep us posted on the recovery! Glad to hear businesses are open again.


Sep 24, 2017 08:48 AM #13
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

Thanks for the very detailed update;  as you say, the trees can be replanted, although it was still very sad to see such large, old trees uprooted.  So glad to see how well many of the buildings withstood the storm.   

Sep 24, 2017 10:21 AM #14
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents

I am very happy Key west faired well compared to what it could have been. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Enough so I was ready to winter there. My friends moved their a year ago. One of them was hit this spring as he drove home on his moped. I have other friends in the Keys that stayed and heard some scary stories. 

Sep 24, 2017 02:23 PM #15
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

Excellent overview of the damage and non-damage in Key West. It sounds as though lots of trees were lost, but most buildings were fine. I'm glad you were fine as well!

Sep 25, 2017 03:35 AM #16
Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Gary Thomas ,

I'm so glad I caught your post on Kathy Streib Sunday series..your detailed descriptions and photos were excellent and showed us a side of the aftermath we hadn't seen on the news (not a huge surprise). You have shown us the use of modern building materials does save property and lives! Glad to hear Old Town is bouncing back and already open for business!

Sep 25, 2017 06:20 AM #17
Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC
Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC - Rockledge, FL
... a small office, delivering big service!

Key West dodged a bullet this time.  The wind is not the primary culprit I fear the real culprit will be rising waters next time.  Still, it is good that damage to infrastructure  was not catastrophic.

Sep 25, 2017 08:11 AM #18
Susan McCall, Everyone needs a home
Compass Realty Solutions, Portland, OR & Vancouver, WA - Portland, OR
Quickly, professionally and with a little fun!

Amazing photos of trees that I have not seen before.  They are so beautiful and majestic.  Disheartening to see so many of them horizontal.  Good to hear that building codes/enforcement work out!

Sep 26, 2017 12:13 AM #19
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

That is a lot of damage, but it could have been so much worse. Glad you are okay down there. Keep us updated, please. 

Sep 27, 2017 10:10 AM #20
Diana Zaccaro
Veterans Realty of Brevard - NOT just for Veterans! - Cocoa Beach, FL
Your Brevard County, Florida coastal connection!

Gary, We used to vacation in Key West frequently and I love Old Town. Thanks for posting the pics...all we saw on the news was the devastation in the middle Keys so it is nice to see an unbiased, factual report. Here's hoping we never see a season like this again...anywhere in the U.S.! 

Dec 19, 2017 01:44 PM #21
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