September 12, 2018

NANCY COOPER/Contributed
Seagrass carpets the floor of Nancy and Art Cooper's Plantation Key home, seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma flooding. Significant repairs have yet to begin due to reluctant insurance companies, Nancy Cooper says.

NANCY COOPER/Contributed Seagrass carpets the floor of Nancy and Art Cooper's Plantation Key home, seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma flooding. Significant repairs have yet to begin due to reluctant insurance companies, Nancy Cooper says.

ISLAMORADA — “Basically, the entire ocean came into our house,” said Plantation Key homeowner Nancy Cooper.

Caught in an insurance quagmire, the Coopers still have no idea when they might return to their East Ridge Road house, more than a year after Hurricane Irma.

“Depending on where you stood, the entire first floor had between three and five feet of water,” Cooper said this week. “Only one bedroom is upstairs; 90 percent is first floor.”

The family had windstorm, flood and homeowners insurance on the three-bedroom, two-bath house purchased nearly five years ago.

“Now they’re all pointing fingers at each other” for claim responsibility, Cooper said of her insurance providers. “And here we are with nothing to show.”

The Coopers had installed storm-proof windows as a precaution, well aware of the nearby Atlantic.

“One of the windows failed. That allowed the ocean to come in,” Cooper said.

With daughter Riley and dogs Jessie and Libby, Art and Nancy Cooper evacuated to the mainland. When a neighbor alerted to the extent of the damage, they purchased a new RV before their return as a temporary shelter.

“The RV turned out to be leaky and got mold,” Cooper said. It was sent back under warranty, and the Coopers rented a place in Tavernier.

“We realize that other people are worse off than we are,” she said. “Our hearts are still beating and we didn’t have a major injury.”

Their East Ridge home and garage “looks OK from the outside, but the first floor is gutted,” Cooper said. “There’s no structure at all after the drywall was taken down.”

Insurance and mortgage companies “don’t seem to understand why we just can’t slap new drywall up,” she said. “The village of Islamorada basically deems it as uninhabitable.”

The extent of damage likely will require a raise in elevation of the home.

“It needs to go up and nobody is allowing us to do it,” Cooper said. “We’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s going super slow….but we are determined not to let them win.”

The Plantation Key house “is our dream home. We love the location and it’s the perfect place for us,” she said. “We are still fighting both our flood and wind [and] homeowners insurance companies with attorneys.

“No family should be treated this way by a company that is supposed to help us in times of need, especially when we pay our insurance faithfully every single month.”

kwadlow@keysnews.com