September 30, 2017

Timothy O'Hara/The Citizen
Venture Out Park General Manager Agnes Arra and park residents Bill and Vicki Weagley inspect damage at the park. Weagley's home suffered only minor damage, while their neighbor's home was destroyed.

Timothy O'Hara/The Citizen Venture Out Park General Manager Agnes Arra and park residents Bill and Vicki Weagley inspect damage at the park. Weagley's home suffered only minor damage, while their neighbor's home was destroyed.

The residents of Venture Out RV and mobile home park continue to struggle to get back to normal and rebuild their lives, as they are still without power three weeks after the storm.

The devastation from Hurricane Irma is no more visible than at the sprawling, 659-unit RV and Mobile home park on the ocean side of Cudjoe Key. Category 4-strength hurricane winds and the tornadoes spawned from the storm wreaked havoc on the park and left a trail of destruction that is beyond description.

Trailers and mobile homes ripped in two or with the roofs completely blown off stand next to trailers in need of only minor repairs, leaving park residents to wonder what happened and why some units were saved and others were not.

“It’s so overwhelming,” Park General Manager Agnes Arra said.

In the aftermath, residents have begun repairing damage to their homes, but it has not been easy with no power. They have also not been able to find day laborers to come and work, park residents said.

“It’s hard to absorb,” said park resident Bill Weagley, as he cleaned up outside his trailer that only suffered minor damage. “We are blessed. We’re trying to the best we can.”

“It’s just crazy,” his wife Vicki added. “We are not complainers. We are do’ers.”

Nearly 70 of the 659 mobile homes, trailers and modular homes are uninhabitable and need to be removed, Arra said. All units suffered some kind of damage.

As of Thursday, Keys Energy Services couldn’t turn on power to all areas of the park because of the extent of the damage and concerns about starting fires and other issues. Also, trailers and mobile homes need to be removed so crews could get to downed lines.

The problem now facing the park is moving the old trailers and mountains of tree limbs, drywall, furniture and other debris that line the interior streets of the park to Spanish Maine Drive or to an approved storage site so state and Monroe County debris haulers will cart it away.

The county and state debris crews can only remove debris from county and state roads in order to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Judith Clarke, a county engineer overseeing debris removal efforts.

But the park has lined up a crew to take the debris out of the park, park attorney Bart Smith said.

However, boats, vehicles, mobile homes and old trailers are “not acceptable debris,” Clarke said. Removal of trailers and boats are generally covered by people’s private insurance coverage, Clarke said.

Clarke’s comments came during Wednesday’s Monroe County Commission meeting. The commission tried to come up with debris removal solutions to help people living in Venture Out.

“If it is a pile of metal, it probably won’t be distinguishable from debris that’s been put out,” Clarke told the commission. “If it is a mobile home out on the right of way it won’t get picked up.”

County Mayor George Neugent proffered the idea of cutting up or finding other ways of disguising the debris so it doesn’t look like destroyed trailers, but a pile of metal.

“You know the rules of engagement,” Neugent told attorney Bart Smith, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the park.

tohara@keysnews.com