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A Key West Resident Surveys Wilma Damage


Chuck Clapp joins us now from Key West, Florida.

And, Chuck, how bad was Hurricane Wilma where you were?

Mr. CHUCK CLAPP (Painting Contractor): The flooding was probably the main thing; a lot of wind, a lot of tree damage, a lot of limbs down around town. But I think the flooding was the main thing. And it came fast. I mean, within 20 minutes there was two feet of water in front of the house--or all around the house at that point. So...

BLOCK: It did come in fast. Did the water go down some pretty quickly, too?

Mr. CLAPP: Yeah, it did, actually. I mean, I guess on this side of the island, it went down a lot faster than it has on the other side of the island, which is still underwater. But we went out there, it was 3:00 in the morning or something like that, it was two feet of water in the front yard, and I went to the back yard, and it was there, too. And there was tires and all sorts of debris floating past the house at that point. And just kept going back out there and just checking on it. It just slowly dropped after that, and within I would say an hour, it was gone after that. So...

BLOCK: Now why did you decide to stay and ride this one out?

Mr. CLAPP: Well, you know, the--we got the house down here, and my wife has a business, I have a business down here. I guess maybe you do get a little bit lackadaisical after a couple of years. You know, this is our seventh one in the past two years. I think you do get a little bit lackadaisical. Two, 3s, you know, you can deal with them. You know, once they start getting into 4 and 5, I think that's when you start getting a little bit more worried.

BLOCK: Categories you're referring to.

Mr. CLAPP: Categories I'm referring to, yeah.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. CLAPP: This one came off the Yucatan, and it just didn't look like it was going to grow to that kind of strength in that short of time. And being picked up by this low-pressure system it moved along, it just didn't seem like it was going to be, you know, that bad. And, you know, in honesty, it wasn't all--you know, it wasn't all that bad either. So, I mean, it's sunny, it's beautiful out right now. So...

BLOCK: How much cleanup do you have to do?

Mr. CLAPP: There's quite a bit around town. We took a run around this morning, checked on my wife's shop and stuff, and there's a lot of tree branches around town. Our yard, we lost probably six or seven palms and stuff like that in the yard. You know, actually there's still some down from the last hurricane we still haven't had a chance to clean up. So there's a lot of stuff down. There's a lot of cleanup to go.

BLOCK: Tell me about your wife's business there.

Mr. CLAPP: She works--she does hair wraps and hair braidings. It's strictly tourist-based, downtown Key West on Duvall Street, which is where, you know, the entertainment district is. And so, yeah, she's--it's strictly just for tourists, and she hasn't seen many of them around the past week.

BLOCK: Chuck, was there a moment during this storm when you thought, `Boy, maybe we made the wrong decision to stay. We really should have gotten off the island'?

Mr. CLAPP: I think there's probably a moment like that in every storm, really...

BLOCK: Yeah?

Mr. CLAPP: ...when you hear things clumping around your house and hitting the roof and stuff like that. But, yeah, I mean, like I said, it was a little bit stronger than we thought it was going to be. When the water had come up so fast and we looked around and realized water was all around the house, you know, I think at that point, really. So, you know, we could be swimming out of here.

BLOCK: Could be swimming.

Mr. CLAPP: Yeah.

BLOCK: Well, that didn't happen.

Mr. CLAPP: Nah. No.

BLOCK: Now do you figure you've seen the end of this hurricane season in Key West?

Mr. CLAPP: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yup, hopefully.

BLOCK: Well, Chuck Clapp, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. CLAPP: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Chuck Clapp is a painting contractor in Key West. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

United States & World Morning EditionAll Things Considered
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.