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Florida Keys Innkeeper Reacts To Hurricane Irma's Destruction


The White Sands Inn in Marathon, Fla., is a special place. It's an old-school motel on a private beach. The building is painted bright teal with accents of purple and salmon pink. It's the kind of place people go back to after staying there for the first time. Rachel Price owns the White Sands Inn with her mom, Janice Stevens. They left the Keys last Thursday. Today Rachel is trying to figure out what happened to her home and business. And she's with us now. Welcome to the show.

RACHEL PRICE: Hi there. Thanks for having me.

MCEVERS: So first just tell us a little bit more about the Inn.

PRICE: We've had it for 18 years, and it's become - our guests have become more like family to us. It's family-run. And we get a lot of families and repeat customers and people that really enjoy it, and they have their specific rooms and come down for their certain things that they come down for. It's just really become an amazing thing to meet people from around the world that come back to the same location.

MCEVERS: And then - so we said that you left on Thursday. Sort of explain, like, what your decision process was like. Surely you've been through hurricane warnings before, right?

PRICE: Yeah, we've been through quite a few hurricanes of our 18 years of being there. But after Wilma came through, we decided if anything was larger than a two, we were going to evacuate. We thought we'd leave later in the week. And then when we heard the problem with gas and whatnot and other people evacuating, we decided we needed to just hurry up and get moving.

MCEVERS: And then - so where are you now?

PRICE: I'm in the Cincinnati area because we had a place that was secure and that we could stay at, you know, for free because we didn't know how long we would need to be out of the area.

MCEVERS: So what do you know about the Inn right now?

PRICE: I didn't know anything until one of my customers, who became a neighbor, actually, called me and told me she saw some photos of the property online, and she tagged me in it on Facebook. I was kind of trying to find somebody that was in town to take photos so I would know what I needed to bring down. Right now I have found out that the Inn - pretty much the entire first floor of my hotel is gone. It's a concrete building. And the part that faces the ocean has two huge holes on the ocean side, and it pretty much cleared out the entire first floor that way.


PRICE: My office is off of its platform, and it's moved into the middle of a parking lot. My pool is pretty much - most of the beach is inside the pool. You can't really see in the photo much of the water. It just looks like it's just covered completely with sand.

MCEVERS: You said you just saw these photos not long ago. Like, what was it like to see them?

PRICE: It was heartbreaking. I kind of expected it, but to just see them - really heartbreaking.

MCEVERS: I'm sorry. What's your plan now?

PRICE: (Laughter) I don't know. We...

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Maybe a little too soon to ask that question.

PRICE: ...Yeah, well, no. When we got the word, we were actually going to eat lunch, and we were having a non-hurricane-talk lunch, and it became an all-hurricane-talk lunch (laughter).


PRICE: First of all, we need to know what the timeframe is to get back in the Florida Keys. I know that they're clearing the roads and, you know, making sure everything is safe for the return. And then you've got to wait for gas and everything again to get back down that far. And you know, you have to have your re-entry stickers and all of that stuff. So I don't even know how long that's going to be before we could even get there.

I don't have an income at this point, and I don't foresee having one in the near future. And then I have to get my office out of the trunk and start calling customers and let them know what's going on and canceling reservations that are coming up.


PRICE: So that's my first plan of action - is to take care of my customers - stuff like that.

MCEVERS: What are you guys saying to each other? I mean when you first got the photos, did you and your mom look at them together? Was it...

PRICE: So I looked at them, you know, first. I had to walk underneath the shade. And then she walked away and looked at them. I think she just said, I just have no words. She doesn't have any words. She doesn't know what to say. I mean none of us really do.

MCEVERS: You're for sure going to rebuild. Like, you want to do that, right?

PRICE: I mean we have to do something of that nature, but (laughter)...

MCEVERS: You've had it 18 years, right?

PRICE: Yeah, 18 years. All our guests are our family members. You know - rebuild it better, get them back. They like to call it their little paradise.

MCEVERS: Well, Rachel Price, good luck.

PRICE: Thanks for having me. I appreciate that.

MCEVERS: Rachel Price co-owns the White Sands Inn in Marathon, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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