After Hurricane Ian, a low-lying Florida city starts to rebuild. Should it?
TALLAHASSEE — After Hurricane Ian, which devastated Tallahassee in 2011, one thing is clear: a low-lying city on Key West’s Gulf beach could never rebuild all of its housing stock.
The area would have flooded, said Don Moore, the city’s chief administrative officer.
The Keys’ storm damage The storm had more power than Hurricane Hugo. On the Key, it wiped out entire neighborhood subdivisions and knocked down thousands of buildings.
“You go to the Keys and you say, `OK, what’s our infrastructure?’ ” Moore said. “And all you can say is, `Well, everything’s gone.’ ”
So much for the keys’ historic role as the playground of the rich and beautiful, Moore said.
But Moore and his city planners are in a better position than most to address the massive, long-term problems that are the legacy of a storm that flooded the city’s core and killed 20 people while it was ashore.
They’ve mapped a way forward. The Keys was “too hard” to rebuild, but it could be possible to fix the damage.
Here’s what they’re considering:
Replace existing housing with new construction.
The Keys, in comparison, are in a far better position than most cities to undertake such a replacement.
The Keys may only have 65,000 residents, but they’re the largest city in the Florida Keys. More than 800,000 people call the Keys home, and hundreds of thousands go to the tourist strip, such as Key West, during the summer.
The Keys also have a larger population than most cities that lost residents because of storm surge, Moore said.
“We can look at our existing population and say, ‘We’ll do the best we can with the limited space,’ “ he said.
But there are challenges.
First, Moore has to be certain that there’