When Judith Silva pulled up to her fish market and restaurant alongside Overseas Highway at Mile Marker 52 early Saturday morning, she breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. The signs for King Seafood were still perched atop her business and the mural she had recently paid $2,000 to restore was intact.

Inside, was a different matter: A 2-to-3 foot storm surge had deposited a thick soup of noxious mud and likely shorted out all her freezer cases.

“It’s a complete loss,” Silva said. With no insurance, she’s just hoping she qualifies for some FEMA or other small business assistance.

Silva, who waited for days to be allowed back into the Middle Keys to check on her business, was among those streaming back after authorities began readmitting people to the central portion of the island chain for the first time Saturday morning. But as authorities prepare to reopen the entire Keys to residents by Sunday, they warned that resources remain spotty and that the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Irma will take weeks, if not months.

Water, electricity and sewage are intermittent at best, Monroe County Mayor George Nugent told reporters in a press conference in Marathon Saturday afternoon. Homes might not be habitable. If residents can afford to do so, he added, they should consider going back to the mainland.

“The Keys are not what you left several days ago when you evacuated,” he said.

A home smolders after catching fire in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Marathon in the Florida Keys on Wednesday, September 13, 2017.

AL DIAZ [email protected]

But the warning is unlikely to deter the anxious,

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