All Florida Sea Base staff is safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma leveled a direct hit on the Florida Keys, but damage to Sea Base facilities and vessels is not yet known.
Florida Sea Base has two facilities in the Keys: the main Sea Base, located in Islamorada, Fla., on the end of Lower Matecumbe Key, and the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key.
Sea Base staff began storm preparation as soon as Irma’s path became clear. Both properties were evacuated on Wednesday — three full days before the storm’s arrival.
Mike Johnson, general manager of the Florida Sea Base, shared an update with me by email. He said he has heard from countless Scouting families who were worried about the base’s staff.
“Thank you to everyone for their prayers and well wishes. The Sea Base staff and Sea Base Committee appreciate it,” he writes. “The good news is that all staff are safe and accounted for. At this point we simply don’t know the extent of damage the Florida Sea Base and the Brinton Environmental Center have sustained.
“As of today, roads into the Keys are impassable, and emergency management and law enforcement are not letting anyone back into the Keys. The Keys have no electricity, no cell service, the lower Keys have no water, upper Keys have water with minimal pressure, none of the hospitals are open, and there is debris from boats and buildings both on the road and in the water — both oceanside and bayside.”
Brinton Environmental Center may have been hardest hit
Johnson notes that Irma came ashore on Cudjoe Key, near the Brinton Environmental Center.
He shared an article from the Miami Herald, which had a reporter in the area, that leads him to believe “damage in the Lower Keys (including Brinton Environmental Center) will be significant.”
What to do if you have a Sea Base reservation in 2017 or 2018
Troops or crews with Sea Base reservations for fall or winter 2017 or spring or summer 2018 should not call or email Sea Base at this time. The base’s staff is extremely busy and doesn’t yet have all the answers.
“It will be many weeks before the base is operational, and we’re going to be focused on the most critical priorities first,” Johnson writes. “Once we know the extent of the damage, we will let crews know if their adventures will be impacted in any way.”
Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.
How to help with cleanup operations
Again, this one counts as “wait and see.”
“For anyone who wants to provide help — i.e., personally coming down to help with recovery efforts or wanting to send support — please wait until we know the damage, needs and next steps,” Johnson writes.
Irma may have damaged the Florida Sea Base’s facilities, but the base’s mission has not changed.
“From its founding in 1980 by Sam Wampler, the Sea Base has been a unique and amazing place, providing incredible experiences for hundreds of thousands of Scouts,” Johnson writes “We’re fortunate to have great staff at the Sea Base to lead this effort forward as well as tremendous support from our National Service Center. Hurricane Irma will impact how we deliver program in the near future but we are committed to delivering the same exciting, quality program that the Sea Base has for 37 years.”