KEY WEST (CBSMiami) — The Florida Keys remains under boil water notice more than a week after Hurricane Irma hit the area.READ MORE: Zoo Miami Mourns Loss Of Gizmo The Meerkat, Apparent Victim Of Tunnel Collapse
On Sunday, families and business-owners were finally allowed to return to the lower Keys but were warned, they better be prepared for primitive-conditions.
Residents streamed through checkpoints, including the main one in Florida City to get back into the Keys after US-1 opened from the mainland to Key West for the first time since Hurricane Irma.
In order to pass the checkpoint at Florida City, at least one person in the vehicle has to show proof of residence, either through a photo ID with a local address, or a photo ID and a utility bill or even a rental agreement.
Janine Buckmaster returned to Key Largo with her two dogs.
“The Keys people all the time they like a personal group. So. They’re going to take care of each other,” said Buckmaster.
Some will need more help than others.
In a hard-hit neighborhood in Ramrod Key – houses were ripped apart by the hurricane. FEMA estimates a quarter of homes in the keys were destroyed.READ MORE: 'This Is Horrifying': Broward Mayor Steve Geller Urges Vaccinations As COVID Cases Climb
Authorities warned electricity and sewer services are intermittent on the keys, and the water is not yet safe to drink. They encouraged people returning to be self-sufficient and bring water, food and tents.
Diane and Bart Vinsh surveying damage to their home in Big Pine Key for the first time.
“We have somebody’s boat in our front yard,” said the couple.
Their home is still standing, but like many, it could take weeks if not months to repair.
Further South, Key West’s iconic Southermost Point buoy remains, though it looks like part of it was sandblasted by the hurricane. Some business are starting to re-open, but it may be a while before the city is able to welcome tourists.
Another concern as people return to the devastated areas is they could become injured in the cleanup process or suffer heat stroke at a time when medical services are limited.
There is a curfew in place to prevent looting. In the lower keys and Key West, the curfew is from dusk to dawn and in the upper and middle keys (up to mile marker 47) the curfew is 10 p.m. to sunrise. Anyone out after the designated times is subject to arrest.
Monroe County Offices will reopen on Monday, Sept 25th. Schools may not be able to reopen in the Florida Keys until almost the end of the month.MORE NEWS: As Federal Eviction Moratorium Ends, BSO Gives Insight Into Eviction Process