I spent the Thanksgiving Holiday in Key West. For those that have never been there, it is a unique part of Florida. You will not find prettier water anywhere in the United States, and the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. Key West is the Southern most point of the United States and only 90 miles from Cuba. Everybody should visit Key West for a long weekend. Like Hawaii, many never go back to the mainland.
Key West has definite island atmosphere. One of my first large commercial cases in the 1980s involved a boiler explosion at the Key West power plant. My first deposition in that case showed that even the professionals respected the Key West lifestyle. Everybody, except me, wore shorts except the court reporter, who wore long sun dress. I felt very out of place in my three piece suit.
The issue in that case was whether the loss was caused by fire or steam. Since one insurance company covered the steam peril and another covered the fire peril, the issue was similar to hurricane wind or flood issues. Thank God the anti-concurrent causation clause had yet to be created because both insurance companies would have found a way to exclude coverage.
After Katrina, we represented a Florida Keys hotel that was damaged. I asked Donna DeVaney to handle the matter. When she went down with engineers and estimators to take photographs, there was a problem –the hotel was “adults only” and clothing was optional. Key West is very tolerant of non-traditional lifestyles. Not many American cities have a Fantasy Festival endorsed by the local Chamber of Commerce.
Key West and Galveston have a number of similarities. They were both struck by Hurricane Ike. While Galveston took a direct blow and suffered storm surge, many areas of Key West were underwater. Key West has suffered massive destruction from hurricanes and is regularly in the path of hurricanes as they make their way into the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston is similarly situated.
Both are island cities with a very rich history. Key West was literally the end of the line for the railroad running the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Galveston was the Port city for Texas until the Great Hurricane of 1900 wiped it out, and Houston took its place.
Throughout the holiday, my thoughts kept going back to the destruction Ike caused to Galveston and the Bolivar peninsula. Key West, like the Bolivar peninsula, has no seawall to protect it from storm surge. A direct hit by a strong hurricane will devastate Key West. Galveston fortunately has more protection. Most of the structures on Key West are not built high enough to withstand a major flood event.
In life, things are never the same; change is the one constant. At some point, another hurricane will scrape Key West from the map much the way Ike has destroyed the Bolivar peninsula. If so, it will never be the same. Whether the citizens of Key West protect their city by building a massive seawall like Galveston’s is questionable. I suggest you visit Key West sooner rather than later.