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The first wave of as many as 2,000 travel trailers expected to roll into the Florida Keys to relieve flooded-out residents arrived this week, according to a report in the Miami Herald.
Among the first to get a hand: municipal workers.
Under a special Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program, Monroe County and cities in the Keys have been allowed to contract with private companies to provide speedy travel trailer accommodations to employees who have been trying to clean up the Keys, while suffering major damage to their own homes.
More than 4,100 homes along the island chain are believed to have suffered major damage from Hurricane Wilma, which left a devastating, though not fatal, storm surge in her wake.
Monroe County’s administrator said last week that as many as 2,000 travel trailers may be needed to meet the county’s demand. The need is expected to increase as problems with mold worsen.
A FEMA spokeswoman said Wednesday (Nov. 16) she didn’t know how many emergency trailers will end up in the Keys. The agency prefers to provide rental assistance and help residents underwrite home repairs, she said.
”It is the last resort, particularly in Florida, where you have got so many areas that are prone to flooding,” FEMA spokeswoman Frances Marine said. “One of the things we have had to look at is we can’t put mobile homes in a flood zone.”
In a tourist-reliant region with rental prices already well above rates elsewhere in Florida, trailers may trump other kinds of temporary solutions, though.
Key West, for example, has already committed about $695,000 to lease about 45 trailers from Lazy Days, a large Tampa-based RV company, for about six months.
The county, meanwhile, has ordered 40 trailers for displaced employees, ranging from a social worker to sheriff’s deputies. Eight of the vehicles have already arrived, with more on the way.
”We are paying for them and are going to get reimbursed from FEMA, from the state, and from the federal government,” Debbie Frederick, deputy Monroe County administrator, said.
The trailers range from one to three bedrooms and have washers and dryers and stoves, she said. Twenty county employees have already applied for keys to the travel trailers.