The Florida Keys have always had a special place in our hearts here at Gallery Drinkware and we've have spent a lot of time there. From its beautiful beaches, fascinating historical sights, charming shopping areas, art galleries, rich Cuban-influenced culture and architecture, and most importantly, the people who live and love there, the Keys and its inhabitants are completely irreplaceable. When Hurricane Matthew threatened the Keys in 2016, we braced ourselves and were so thankful that the Keys and surrounding areas were mostly spared. But now that Irma churns and plows through the Caribbean, leaving devastating destruction and death in its wake, we feel those same fears, multiplied, that we did when Matthew threatened Florida last year.
As of the latest update, about 5.6 million people have been ordered to evacuate their Florida homes in one of the biggest evacuations in the country's history (this is more than a quarter of Florida's population). Since Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane to reach Cuba since 1924, Florida knows that this could be beyond catastrophic. Evacuating doesn't necessarily mean leaving the state, as more than 260 shelters are in operation state-wide, with at least 70 more set to open, but it's the residents' responsibilities to get themselves there. "Once the storm starts, we cannot save you," the Florida governor said. Chilling words.
The low-lying Keys are in particular danger from the storm and the Friday forecast predicted that Marathon, home of the county's operations center, was in the path of direct hit. By Saturday morning, which is when I'm writing this blog post, the storm's outer bands have been hitting the Keys with winds up to 130 miles per hour. The eye of the storm is predicted to hit southwest Florida and Tampa on Sunday. 25,000 Floridians have already lost power. The governor says the storm could result in standing water up to 12 feet. "This will cover your house. You will not survive this storm surge."
We will keep Florida and all of the affected areas in the Caribbean in our thoughts and prayers. As we wait in fear for the latest news about this storm, we feel incredibly powerless. Many, many people are going to need an immense amount of assistance after the storm passes and we hope that we can help in some way.