When Hurricane Irma reached Florida’s Big Pine Key in September, it caused the floor of Terry and Sharon Baron’s cream-colored mobile home to collapse. On Marathon Key, twenty miles north, the winds lifted Diane Gaffield’s mobile home off its concrete pad and smashed it against her neighbor’s house.
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A few blocks over, Kimberly Ruth’s mobile home simply vanished into the storm.
Irma was only the start of their troubles. The Florida Keys building code effectively prohibits replacing or substantially repairing damaged mobile homes because of their vulnerability to hurricanes. That leaves people living in one of the nearly 1,000 trailers and RVs damaged or destroyed by the storm with three options: find sturdier but more expensive accommodation, repair or replace the homes and hope code officials don’t notice, or leave the Keys.