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Famed Southwest Florida fishing villages still digging out from Irma mud

MiamiHerald / Three weeks after Hurricane Irma lashed Chokoloskee and Everglades City, the small fishing villages as well known for stone crabs as their outlaw past are still digging out from a blow that brought powerful winds but also something much worse – a storm surge awash in deep, foul mud.

At Shannon and Billy Snyder’s cottage, the front porch Billy lined with driftwood could pass for a dried-out riverbed. Along Riverside Drive, a bulldozer has plowed up mounds of the stuff, creating drifts like brown snow. And when the skies ominously darkened and sent another round of pounding rain last week, a carpet of mud surrounding the RV now serving as Everglades City’s temporary town hall turned slick again, sending the mayor slipping and sliding in his crabber boots.

While the damage from Irma’s landfall in the Lower Keys was severe, the impact in this isolated pocket of Southwest Florida may be worse. So far, about 100 homes have been condemned, but countless others are barely habitable, their sodden insides stripped by owners or sprouting mold and mildew as damaging as any hurricane.

“I got people staying in homes that I wished they weren’t in,” said Mayor Howie Grimm, who rode out the storm with his 88-year-old mother and brother in his stilt house. “They went and cleaned them up somewhat, but I’m terrified for them with the mold. And some of them even have small children. We need to give them an option.”

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