4 Months Post-Irma at KML

New metal roof on the Bay House
KML has made huge strides in the last 4 months recovering from wind and water damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We were quickly able to accommodate visitors in our dorms and with boat trips, assisting researchers from multiple universities, in the recovery and re-deployment of their instruments for long-term studies as well as on-going reef assessments.
In November, the crew from FIO's RV Weatherbird came down and helped clean and repair 'The Shallows' (large seawater mesocosym). They all rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to haul out gravel, muck, and debris left from the storm; a truly messy and back-breaking task. We should have water flowing there soon, once electrical outlets are replaced and seawater pumps can be installed.

Bay House: water damage to bedroom ceilings repaired and a fresh coat of paint

Bay House: kitchen and living room ready for visitors
Walk-thru Lab 1: flood damage repaired, new dry wall painted, and KML staff building new supports for counter tops

Main Dry Lab: flood damage repaired, new drywall painted, and awaiting new cabinetry, counter tops, and sinks
Dry Lab 2: flood damage repaired and awaiting new cabinetry and counter tops

New fence installation in progress

 We have come a long way since the wee hours of September 10, 2017 but the Keys still have a long way to go on the road to recovery. Residents are all trying to find a new 'normal' and it will likely take years. Mountains of debris have been removed but piles still remain, lining the highway; sobering reminders of Nature's fury.

Long Key State Park is open for day use but campsites remain closed. Mountains of sand, removed from US 1, now are piled on the shoreline. Turtle nesting season will be a challenge this year.

Conch Key, 4 miles south of KML, sustained major damage to many homes

Driving toward Marathon and closer to the eye of the storm, Grassey Key is still lined with building debris, appliances, and even a damaged boat

Sunrise on Long Key

But we are #KeysStrong!


Post-Irma Update #3

A team of Clemson University students, led by Dr. Michael Childress, spent their fall break at Keys Marine Lab helping with Hurricane Irma recovery and clean up. Slowly getting up to speed with only the Admin Dorm available, this was the first group on site since the storm.
A perfect rainbow over Florida Bay to start the day
In preparation for the trip, the Clemson University community took up a collection of much-needed Irma Recovery Supplies for the Childress Team to bring down to the Keys, which they donated to a local church for distribution to residents. Cleaning supplies, tools, diapers, canned and dry foods were among the items gratefully accepted.
The first big task at hand was to shovel muck and gravel out from under the seawater tables. Then all the seawater tables had to be emptied and  scrubbed clean after sitting stagnant for 5 weeks. Meanwhile KML seawater manager Tom Bartlett ran a thorough check on all the system pumps and chillers before firing it up - and we had running seawater again!
The next big task was mucking out the Tide Pool. Armed with waders, rubber gloves, and a shop vac, they were up to the task.

 And of course changing out the old media in the sand filter had to be tackled.

Once water flow was restored to the Tide Pool, the students created mini reef habitats around the pool. And of course they took some time out to snorkel off the KML seawall to look for new creatures for the display.
Reward for all their hard work: a day on the water aboard the R/V Diodon!

This was our first day out on the water to check on the nearby reefs. Visibility was generally good around Tennessee Reef, 11' Mound, and the Long Key Bridge Rubble. 

Snorkelers and divers collected a large amount of marine debris on the reef

Alive and well: Checking on one of our known Pillar Coral colonies at Long Key Ledge

KML continues to make great progress cleaning up the lab and repairing damage, thanks to the continued support of University of South Florida, our host institution. Stay tuned for more updates in the weeks ahead.


Post-Irma Updates #2

Bay House: waiting for new roofing. 
Bay House bedrooms: ready to install new ceilings

KML staff have made tremendous progress in the 2 short weeks since returning to KML. Safety precautions required detailed attention to all buildings as the equipment was assessed and power was restored.  Our second week we focused on initial priorities which were clearing, cleaning, organizing, and documenting the contents.  Mitigation of impacted areas is nearing completion after a week of focused effort by our contractor.  We are now working to secure contractors for building repairs.
Dry Lab - wet drywall and cabinets removed
Science Office: mitigating water damage

We have limited phone systems-- we can receive messages on our answering machine and have the ability to call out, but we are unable to answer calls. If you leave a message or email one of us, we will get back to you as soon as we are able (internet is working just fine). 

Visiting group access is currently limited to ONLY the Admin Dorm (16 co-ed beds total) and Vessels. If you were scheduled to visit KML in the next few months, you should be hearing from us soon to discuss your options.  

The Dry Lab/Classroom, Marina Dorm, Bay House, and Seawater Systems remain offline until repairs can be scheduled and completed. 
Classroom dried out and ready for new drywall
Tide Pool - drained and ready to clean
We do not yet have a timeline for recovery completion.  Multiples facets are being addressed simultaneously and each day provides new information.  Our goal is to complete the repairs as soon as possible, but many factors are beyond our control. 

We appreciate your concern, well wishes, and your patience as we work toward restoring KML to full operations in the near future. 

 We hope to welcome you all back to the Keys Marine Lab soon!


Thank you to everyone who inquired about the status of KML staff and the lab.  It means a lot to everyone to know that others are concerned and we appreciate your notes of concern and support.  On the people side, everyone and their families and loved ones are safe and sound.  Personal property suffered minor to major damage but all are back in the Keys in safe housing whether permanent or temporary. 
sand dunes along US 1 returning to Long Key post-Irma
As you may know, Hurricane Irma hit the Keys from the ocean-side as a strong Category 4 on Sunday September 10th, with the eye passing over between Marathon and Key West. On Long Key, sustained winds of 97 mph, with gusts to 141 mph, were recorded. The storm surge passed through KML, flooding some ground-floor buildings with up to 12" of water, and moving lots of gravel around the property.
temporary security fencing
High winds caused some damage to roofs, especially the Bay House. All the vessels came through the storm with only minor damage and are fully operational. The Seawater Systems appear to be fine and even the shade structure over the new system was undamaged! Once we have full power throughout the property, we can determine if the systems are operational.

The R/V Mola and R/V Opah right where we left them!
washed out gravel
receding waters on shop floor
salvaging tools and cleaning out the shop
The lab was professionally assessed for damages and safety within five days after Irma passed. Wash-out of US 1 at mile marker 74 delayed entry.
Once Overseas Highway (US 1) was safely passable and power was restored to Long Key and deemed safe, KML staff returned to the lab (28 September) to begin clean up.  Power has been selectively restored to the Admin building,  Marina building, and Bay House only.  Both floors of the Admin building (including dorms), the ground floor of the marine building (shop, laundry room, dive locker), and the Bay House (with the exception of bedrooms until water-damaged ceilings can be repaired) have been determined to be habitable. 
some damage to Bay House roof
The Bay House roof was damaged and will need to be repaired. We are currently working to restore power to the Science and Dry Lab/Classroom buildings so remediation from water damage can proceed.  Because the sea water system power is through the Dry Lab/Classroom buildings, we don’t yet know if the system was damaged. We are currently lining up contractors to expedite repairs.  All in all, the lab did well and we hope to be fully operational in a few months. 
Seawater Well system looks in good shape
Because the Admin building is fully functional now, as are all vessels, we are partially operational and hope to be able to host our first academic group as planned the week of Oct. 16! 

October 5th full moon brought King High tides to the marina basin

boats safely sprung off the seawall

Our first group of student volunteers, who will stay in the Admin dorm, are expected next week.  We will be working with them to continue to clean up the grounds, sea water tanks, shallows, etc.  If you or you have students or others who are interested in coming to the lab to help with our restoration efforts, please let me know and I am happy to work with you and would love to have you at the lab!

Thank you again for those of you who reached out to us.  We hope you and yours are safe and sustained little or no damage from Irma.  Please stay in touch.  If we can do anything to help you, don’t hesitate to ask. Operations manager, Lisa Tipsword, will continue to have up-to-date information on our progress 

2017 Eclipse: A KML perspective

Eyes in the Sky! We had a perfect day for viewing the Great American Eclipse at KML. Clear sunny skies and we were prepared with our official viewing glasses. 
 A few fun facts
KML location: (24.8257, -80.8143)
Eclipse start time: 1:37pm (13:37)
Eclipse max time: 2:58pm (14:58) 74.15% coverage
Eclipse end time: 4:21pm (16:21)
Weather: Clear skies, Wind East 18 knots
We had a monitoring station set up under an 80% shade cloth with a HOBO data logger recording air temperatures and light intensity every 5 minutes

The start: 1:37pm

Time: 2:20pm 14:20


little moon shadows through the gumbo limbo leaves!
5 minutes after maximum at KML: 3:03pm
Our logger shows a 5.6°C air temperature drop with the lowest temperature and light intensity recorded 12 minutes after maximum eclipse

And of course we were adding observations to  NASA GLOBE Observer!
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