Debris in water prevents boats from delivering supplies to Keys

KEY WEST, FLA. (WSVN) - The recovery process is underway less than a week after Hurricane Irma barreled through the Florida Keys, but crews have encountered some obstacles in their efforts.

“The storm, the wind, it was horrible,” said hurricane victim Hellen Fill, “and there’s so much damage.”

“This is a community that pulls together — I’m gonna cry,” said local newspaper reporter Carol Tedesco. “They pull together in every way, shape and form.”

AT&T is working around the clock, trying to provide temporary service while a permanent fix is still in the works.

However, boats that were wrecked by Irma are now blocking the coast, hindering relief efforts in the Keys.

“It’s a hazard of navigation for traveling in and out of the Keys,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Clay Brown.

Sailboats are docked and large debris lurk beneath the water’s surface, preventing ships both small and large from delivering much-needed supplies like food and water to the Keys.

“Well, I mean, obviously you can see there’s plenty of sailboats here, a lot of them protruding out of the water,” said Brown.

“There is no Key West without the port,” said U.S. Coast Guard Officer Karl Paulsson, “so it’s critical that we get this open and safe so vessels will come back in, and we can start getting life back on track.”

The Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation Team is using a small boat to go out and survey the water, trying to find any debris that’s underneath the surface.

“Especially at night, if it’s not lit, you’re not gonna be able to see it,” said Brown, “so just that is enough power to sink a vessel.”

“There’s all kinds of debris down here at the bottom,” said U.S. Coast Guard Officer Chad Turner, “which once they run their sonar, they’ll be able to determine, you know, what exactly is down there and then go with a plan how to get it out.”

Crews are using sonar to locate the objects that could bring down one of the Navy’s vessels.

“Press this right here, and that’ll give us basically a live feed of the data that’s being collected,” said U.S. Military Lt. Sierra Bollinger.

Once something is found, dive teams are sent in to assess the damage. In some cases, they’ll hook up cables to the objects and pull them out of the way.

“We wanna get this port open as fast as possible because a lot of lives really rely on it,” said Brown.

Currently, there is no timeline for when crews will be able to get all the debris out of the way because they don’t know how much is out there.

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