Hurricane Irma will be the last major storm Brian “Hoss” Coddens tries to ride out.

Coddens and his wife, Deena “Mary” Eskew, stayed on Key West, Florida, through the hurricane and have only recently been able to re-establish contact with the outside world. Friends from their days in Maine have checked in frequently on the couple’s Facebook page to see how they’re doing and he used a phone call Tuesday – after waiting in line for four hours – to call the Portland Press Herald to let people know they had made it through the storm.

He said cellphone service became available again Wednesday morning and power crews have been working their way through the island making repairs, although electricity has only been restored to a small part of Key West, at the extreme southwestern end of the Florida Keys.

But that doesn’t mean life is getting back to normal anytime soon, Coddens said.

“It’s hot and it’s buggy and it’s impossible to sleep,” he said during a 10-minute phone call from his cellphone Wednesday that was cut off five times – cell service remains spotty.

Coddens and Eskew ran “Hoss and Mary’s Tasty Grub,” a Key West-themed restaurant in Old Orchard Beach from 2008 until they decided to close it in 2015 and move back to Key West. The couple met in Key West in the 1980s.



Coddens and Eskew rode out the storm with Lynda Vigneault, a former resident of Kennebunkport.

He said her house had remained dry during a previous hurricane, and he wanted to make sure she was taken care of during Irma.

That was one reason Coddens and Eskew didn’t evacuate, he said. Earlier forecasts had also suggested the storm would move up the east coast of Florida, sparing the Keys.

By the time the forecasts changed and it was clear the Keys were in the storm’s path, it was too late to leave safely, Coddens said.

Also, he said, he felt reassured that many long-time residents who had been through other hurricanes told him they also planned to stay.


But those assurances didn’t last.

“Then, hour-by-hour, we’d get phone calls from people we thought were staying who ended up leaving at the last minute,” Coddens said.

Monday, the couple checked out their house on Stock Island, which is separated from Key West by a narrow channel, and found it survived the storm.

Officials have said as many as a quarter of the houses on Key West were destroyed by the hurricane, which made its first landfall in Florida on Cudjoe Key, only about 20 miles from Key West.

“Every other street around was devastated,” he said. He estimated 80 percent of the trees on the island were knocked over and many homes were flooded by the storm surge.

The couple’s food truck, which had been moved to a safer spot, also came through the storm, he said, marred only by a fresh dent from a cover that had been blown off a boat stored nearby.


Coddens said the storm, which was most intense Friday night and early Saturday, was harrowing.

Power cut out early in the evening and the trio huddled in the dark in Vigneault’s living room, fearing the winds would tear the roof off. Outside, they could hear electrical transformers blowing up, he said.

“We thought at one point, the worst was over, and then it got worse,” he said.

Coddens and Eskew were able to venture out early Saturday as the storm moved on to batter the west coast of the Florida peninsula.

He said most people who had stayed on the island ventured outside at about the same time, but were limited in where they could go because of downed power lines and trees in the streets.

A sunset-to-sunrise curfew remains in place, Coddens said, and he and Eskew were still sleeping on Vigneault’s porch Wednesday night because it’s too warm to sleep inside, with no air conditioning.


The couple had filled 30-gallon containers with water and stocked up on bottled water before the storm, Codden said, but neighbors who weren’t as well prepared were running low on water. Emergency management officials have passed out MREs – military “meals-ready-to-eat” – so there is food.

Coddens and Eskew have been eating the food they had on hand in their food truck, also called “Hoss and Mary’s Tasty Grub,” which they opened in Key West earlier this summer.

They’ve been able to keep the food, mostly ground beef and hot dogs – cold by storing it in a large ice machine at a marina near their house.

Although the machine isn’t operating because there is no electricity, the ice made before the power went out has kept the food cold, he said.


“I personally am extremely happy with how we prepared for the storm, but we have learned a lot of lessons,” he said.


Coddens said one of those lessons was that stocking up on food that needs to be cooked after a major storm doesn’t make sense.

In retrospect, he said, they should have stockpiled more canned goods.

Large cargo planes loaded with supplies are landing at Key West’s airport, Coddens said, and helicopters from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, stationed off shore, have also brought in supplies, but the initial response to the hurricane was spearheaded by residents and local police and firefighters, he said.

“It was local citizens doing all the work,” Coddens said.

Coddens said it’s not clear when more services will be restored, but so far, he’s happy with how quickly the work has been done.

For instance, they were told not to expect cellphone service for at least a week, but it came back five days after the storm ended.

“We’re thankful for that.” he said.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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