September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma passes over Summerland Key.

Hurricane Irma passes over Summerland Key.

Summerland Key residents Don and Karen DeMaria and Joe and Di Messer and a neighbor only known to them as Ricky took all Hurricane Irma had to throw at them from the epicenter of the worst hurricane to strike the Florida Keys in decades.

The group braved Category 4 winds inside the Messers’ stilted wood home on West Shore Drive on Summerland Key. Hold up in the wood home some 15 feet above ground, they watched roofs blow off homes from 130-mph sustained winds and vehicles and boats washed into homes from raging storm surge.

“The first storm surge was bad and the second surge was worse,” Don Demaria, a longtime commercial spear-fishermen who also lives on Summerland Key, said Tuesday. “It was very eerie. I saw birds flying around that I have never seen before, swallows or something. It was incredible. It was surreal. It went on for hours. But nobody panicked. The house was shaking. It was like we were in a plane with extreme turbulence.”

“We went out in the eye to assess damage and to move things around and to tighten things up. We had to move things around so they wouldn’t come through the windows.”

After the category 4 Hurricane passed, Don and Karen DeMaria saw cement telephone poles downed. They came home to find their single-story cement home in ruins and their boat destroyed.

“Caribbean Drive (on Summerland Key) looks like a war zone,” DeMaria said Tuesday.

The DeMarias do not have property insurance. On Tuesday, they were in route to stay with family in Bradenton.

“Our home was trashed and we’re homeless,” DeMaria said who moved to the Keys in the 1978 from Jacksonville. “We will rebuild. We are going to get through this. Everyone will, as the long as they keep a positive attitude.

“We are going ‘to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew,’” DeMaria said, quoting Bob Dylan’s famous song “Tangled Up In Blue.”

Storm surge on Summerland Key as hurricane Irma passes over the island.