On the morning of 10 September 2017, Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. Mandatory evacuation pushed tens of thousands of people onto a two-lane road. Returning to the area following the storm introduced additional challenges, for example: fuel trucks having trouble entering, housing shortages, landlord issues, builder contract concerns, vulnerable populations, and other reasons for delayed entry. With surrounding areas also being affected by the storm, prioritization and allocation of essential services and shared assets, as well as warehousing of donations proved to be difficult. However, out-of-state workers and resources such as the Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) have played critical roles during the ongoing recovery phase.
As returning to a new normal continues, donor fatigue has set in, but long-term recovery groups have formed and the true recovery is beginning. The misconception that everyone in this service industry town is wealthy can hinder recovery for those in need. On 2 February 2018, DomPrep Advisor Andrew Roszak held an exclusive interview with one Key West resident who reflected on lessons learned as he continues to balance life and work. Living in an RV after losing his home to Irma, J. Matthew Massoud, case manager for Monroe County Social Services, faces these challenges head on and helps prepare his community for a time in the near future when Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance will end. In this podcast, he shares his experience, offers tips for others who may someday find themselves in a similar situation, and provides possible approaches for filling the gaps when federal assistance is no longer available.