Returning Keys residents must be self-sustaining

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One week after Hurricane Irma slammed Florida, residents of the hard-hit southern Keys are returning to their homes this weekend to see the devastation.

The advisory is being made "out of an abundance of caution", said county spokeswoman Cammy Clark.

As of noon Monday, almost 4 percent of the homes and businesses in Florida were without power.

Officials in the Florida Keys are stepping up plans to let residents and business owners re-enter the area to check on their property. "Electricity, sewer and water are intermittent at best", said Monroe County Mayor George Neugent during a news conference Saturday.

At 7 a.m. Sunday, the county plans to open up US 1 to those same groups all the way to Key West.

Recovery efforts are well underway with the Salvation Army planning to serve 5,000 barbecue dinners Saturday night in Marathon and Key West, marking the first hot meals for many since Irma made landfall almost a week ago.

Clark said an additional checkpoint at Mile Marker 47 will control admittance into the Lower Keys. Power, water and cell service are still spotty.

In the darkest days after the storm, when the basic comforts many take for granted - power, water, toilets, contact with the outside world - were wiped out by Hurricane Irma, the Conch Republic took care of its own.

Miami-Dade County hoped to resume operations Monday.

The uncertainty is putting additional stress on parents trying to return to work. Officials say it could take several years to rebuild.

"It's challenging but we kept busy with activities, some coloring", said Eickleberry, of Coconut Grove.

"As families across the state continue to recover from Hurricane Irma, we must make sure our students have access to every resource they need to remain successful in school", said Scott.

In some southwest Florida districts, classes were postponed until September 25.

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