Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Despite Isaac's soaking, Keys residents laid back

KEY WEST — Outside Key West's ramshackle inside-outside Schooner Wharf Bar, a bearded bicyclist pedaled by, wearing a rain poncho and passing the word Sunday evening.

It wasn't a hurricane, he called out; it was a windy day in paradise.

Isaac never reached hurricane strength in the Keys.

By late Sunday afternoon, a slight shift to the west and faster pace helped spare South Florida a more severe storm, said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The storm actually dipped a bit in strength of sustained winds to 60 mph as it skirted Key West in the late afternoon.

Isaac caused considerable inconvenience, with more than 550 flights canceled at Miami International Airport and about 150 from Fort Lauderdale's airport. There were scattered power outages from Key West to Fort Lauderdale affecting more than 16,000 customers, and flooding occurred in low-lying areas.

Wind gusts of 60 mph were reported as far north as Pompano Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale. But while officials urged residents in southeast Florida to stay home, that recommendation was ignored by surfers and joggers on Miami Beach and shoppers at area malls.

In Key West, Emalyn Mercer rode her bike while decked out with a snorkel and mask, inflatable arm bands and a paddle, just for a laugh. She rode with Kelly Friend, who wore a wet suit, dive cap and lobster gloves.

"We're just going for a drink," Mercer said.

"With the ones that are brave enough like us," Friend added.

Along famed Duval Street, many stores, bars and restaurants closed, the cigar rollers and palm readers packed up, and just a handful of drinking holes remained open.

But people posed for pictures at the Southernmost Point, while at a marina Dave Harris and Robyn Roth took her dachshund for a walk and checked out boats rocking along the waterfront.

"Just a summer day in Key West," Harris said.

That kind of ho-hum attitude extended farther up the coast. Edwin Reeder swung by a gas station in Miami Shores — not for fuel, but drinks and snacks.

"This isn't a storm," he said. "It's a rain storm."

Information from the Miami Herald and Associated Press was used in this report.

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