Florida on a Tankful: Icons stand-up to Irma

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, October 13, 2017, 12:40 PM EDT

The power of the rough surf at the southernmost point in the United States tried to take out an icon.

"We wanted to see after Irma how Key West held up,” said vacationer Bernadette Sailman after pulling up to the famed red, yellow and black buoy in Key West.

"The paint is off the whole left side. There is nothing,” Madison Norris from Mulburry concurs.

Although Irma's winds sand-blasted the cement bell-shaped buoy along a rocky corner of the Atlantic coast, the icon still stands as a beacon for those wanting selfies.

"We didn't think we were going to come here, because of the hurricane and everything,” Madison said. “Some of our houses (in Lakeland) got messed up too, so I figured down here would be totally devastated.  But actually, they cleaned it up."

Like so many who are enchanted with Key West, Madison Norris from Mulberry came looking for fun.

“It's my bachelorette party,” she said wearing a lacy blouse, with her navel ring on full display. “I am getting married in November."

That's music to Nadene Grossman Orr's ears.

"There is something for everyone to do in Key West," said the event planner charged with planning the infamous Fantasy Fest.

"It is a creative costumed, adult celebration,” Nadene said with a coy grin.

Nadene’s Fantasy Fest will go on as planned, even as repairs continue.

"If the Keys were to reach out to Madison, would you help them re-paint?" Scott asked Madison at the buoy.

"Um.  If they would pay for me to come back down here?  Sure,” Madison answered with a laugh.

Sailman and her husband Bob spent the past 45 years together.  In the mid '90s the couple lived in Key West.  Following Irma, they couldn't stay away.

"Well, the buoy doesn't look the same as it did when I lived here,” Bernadette said wearing her reflective sunglasses on a cloudy day.

While it will take time for all of the Keys to recover, Key West's magic is still at work.

"I want to move back down, but she doesn’t,” Bob says disappointedly, while pointing at Bernadette.

“Do you miss it?” Scott asked.

“Yeah,” Bob said, like any visitor who will take home memories and seek a return visit to make more.

Know Before You Go:
The Southernmost Point Buoy is located at Whitehead St & South St, Key West, FL 33040.
There is very limited parking by digital meter. Tour trains will pass the icon, but none stop. Walking from Duval Street will take 10 minutes.

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