By Ted Scouten

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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) — The clean up is underway in Key West as residents are just hours away from returning home, but life here will be very different for a while.

“It’s not easy. It’s hot, there’s trash everywhere. They haven’t picked the trash up yet,” said Al Phillips, who owns the Viva Saloon on Duval Street. “But all this stuff is really going to start stinking. I’m afraid they’re going to come back to thinking things are back to normal and they’re really not.”

gettyimages 847610948 Key West Recovering But Life Will Be Different For A While

A sunken boat leans against another boat damaged by Hurricane Irma in Boot Key Harbor September 15, 2017 in Marathon, Florida. Many places in the Keys still lack water, electricity or mobile phone service and residents are still not permitted to go further south than Islamorada. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

He, along with many business owners, are now in clean up mode. His place doesn’t have power yet.

About half the island is still dark and water is available just nine hours a day. He’s concerned about people coming back, taxing an infrastructure that’s already pretty delicate.

“The city’s only half up and running,” he continued. “You put that many more people on the street and they’re trying to get back to jobs that aren’t available for them, that’s, kind of, a tough thing to do.”

Key West Mayor Craig Cates is concerned about the influx, too. He said although the island is open, people have to realize it’s not the same.

“We’re ready to accept our residents back, get our town cleaned up so we can go back to work,” said the mayor. “Hopefully they don’t just pour in here asking for services because they’re not here yet. We want them to come back and they’re going to have to be self-sufficient and get their houses back together and cleaned up so they can live in them.”

That “self-sufficiency” is going on all over town — where neighbors are helping neighbors.

At the 801 Bar, they’re cooking up food for anyone who wants it. Businesses are pitching in with food donations.

“This island is really living up to its motto, one human family,” said Jim Young as he served food. “Everybody’s just helping each other and not asking for anything in return.”


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