Sea Base after Hurricane Irma: ‘We’re very fortunate given the severity of the storm’

The Florida Keys partially reopened Tuesday, giving Florida Sea Base staff their first look at the facilities after Hurricane Irma made landfall over the weekend.

We already knew that, thankfully, the Sea Base staff evacuated well before the storm hit. Now we know how the main Sea Base facilities fared.

The damage at the main Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla., is “minimal given the severity of the storm,” says general manager Mike Johnson. “There are many downed palm trees, palm fronds everywhere, downed fences, lots of trash from across the street that has washed into and through our fence, mud on everything, stains on buildings from wind-driven trash, and Sargasso weed all over.”

Damage at the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key right near where Irma made landfall, still is not known. The road is closed at mile marker 73 — nearly 50 miles up the keys from Summerland, meaning nobody is allowed down there.

“We can’t get down there,” Johnson says. “As soon as I have some information I will provide it. We’re expecting a lot of cleanup.”

Also still unknown: How Sea Base programs will be affected in 2017 and beyond. I’ll share those updates as soon as I have them.

Read on for more details on the current condition of the Sea Base.

The parade ground has lots of debris.

Overview of status of Sea Base

After taking a first look around, here’s Johnson’s report:

Buildings with no damage visible: Thomas Building, scuba dorms, sailing dorms, Adams Building (administrative building), the scuba complex, ship’s store (couldn’t see the roof), T-dock (no visible damage)

Buildings with minimal to moderate damage: Annex (missing roof panels, some siding damage), commissary/ice house (fallen tree on the commissary, missing siding on both buildings), registration building (siding damage), galley (siding damage), maintenance shed (one of the roll up doors is heavily damaged)

Buildings with significant damage: The scuba chickee hut

Staff housing: The four staff houses sustained moderate to severe roof damage. The fence around the property is 50 percent destroyed.

Vehicles: “It doesn’t seem like the storm surge was high enough to have washed into the interiors,” Johnson says.

Fuel: Neither the gas nor the diesel tanks were damaged. There is still no power at the Sea Base, but the fuel will allow staff to run generators soon.

Boats: The Dusky boats at Sea Base are undamaged.

A tree down near the quarterdeck. It fell onto the commissary/ice house.

Next steps

Once the Sea Base has power and water, Johnson will contact Philmont to get a crew that can help with cleanup. The teams at each of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases are one big family, and families help each other in times of need.

“There are easily weeks of chain sawing, power washing, basic repair, cleaning and organizing ahead of us,” Johnson says. 

As I mentioned on Monday, 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 has no power. Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.

As for those volunteering to help or send supplies, the time for that will come as well. I’ll share those needs and next steps as soon as I get them from Johnson and his team.

Sunset over the base on Sept. 12, 2017.
The Thomas Building was mostly unscathed with lots of debris around it.
Lots of fences are down around the base.
View from the scuba dorms.