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Michigan native who rode out Hurricane Irma in Key West shares update after storm

KEY WEST, Fla. – Laree Sparks, a former Michigander who now lives in Key West, decided to ride out Hurricane Irma.

"We always gamble with this because it's so hard to get out," she said.

Sparks has lived in downtown Key West for eight years. She feels grateful because Key West wasn't hit as hard by Irma as it was widely expected to be.

Sparks said a lot of the damage in Key West was to roofs.

Islands east of Key West weren't so lucky, however. Others, such as Marathon Key and Big Pine Key, sustained heavier damage. The damage in the other Keys prevented those who stayed in Key West from leaving once Irma hit.

Sparks said most people were prepared for only a few days, not a week, but the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency have been consistently bringing supplies, food and water to residents.

Also, everyone who stayed through the storm is helping each other, she said.

Grocery stores began reopening Thursday with limited hours, she said, and there's access to running water, but only from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sparks compared Irma to a super tornado, and said she doesn't think she will stay through another hurricane.

"I would take a snow storm over this any day," she said.

Sparks noted that she and others are working to clean up Key West as quickly as possible. She urges those with trips planned in the coming months to not cancel them because people in Key West are trying to get their economy up and running. 

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