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Nancy Klingener

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami HeraldSolares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.

She is a Spring 2014 graduate of the Transom Story Workshop. She is on the board of the Key West Literary Seminar and reviews books for the Miami Herald

Posted at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12

One of the industries hit hardest by the coronavirus is travel. And the Florida Keys — while having no confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon — are already feeling the effects.

Key West is a small town with about 25,000 residents — but it receives many times its population in visitors from all over the world. So the city is getting ready for possible cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to songs like "Moon River" and "Accentuate the Positive" — music that is part of the Great American Songbook. 

Some Mercer songs — then new and recorded on a demo reel in the 1960s for a show that was never produced — were recently performed for the first time, in Key West.


Coping with storm surge fueled by rising seas in the Keys means elevating homes, buyouts in vulnerable areas, protecting important places like hospitals and wastewater plants and stabilizing parts of the Overseas Highway that could get washed out in storms.

The endangered Key deer are one of the iconic animals of South Florida. The small deer are popular with tourists for photos. But, it can be dangerous for the deer when they get too comfortable with humans.

Case in point: Last year, a Key deer buck started showing up at the CVS on Big Pine Key.

The coronavirus is affecting the local economy through important local industries, like tourism. It's also having a severe impact on another industry — commercial fishing.

Key West last year became the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that studies have found harm coral. Now, a bill is making its way through the Legislature that could overturn that ban before it is implemented.

Last February, a Chinese man was sentenced to a year in federal prison after he got caught taking photographs of military buildings on the Navy base in Key West. Now, another Chinese man faces the same charge.

For decades, most of the news about coral reefs has been pretty gloomy. Now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is launching a new mission to bring back a few of those reefs.

After Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys in September 2017, the island chain saw a drop in visitors. Now the primary industry in the Keys is back — and it's booming.

There's a big pot of money coming to Florida from the federal government to help communities hit hard by recent hurricanes be more resilient in future storms. The Keys are making the case for a good chunk of that money.

Initial reporting can leave lasting impressions after a hurricane — and that can be really damaging to a tourism destination.

Green iguanas are invasive exotics and in South Florida, their numbers have exploded. They eat vegetation and sometimes bird eggs. And they dig into the ground, destabilizing canal banks, bridge pilings — and at the Key West cemetery, grave sites.

This post was updated at at 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 12

The prospect of genetically modified mosquitoes is back for the Florida Keys — just as a new study raises concerns about the technology.

All of the Florida Keys reef is under thermal stress — meaning the water is warm enough that corals may start bleaching.

The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that slammed Islamorada was the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record — until Sunday, when Hurricane Dorian tied it in the Bahamas.

On Monday, residents of Islamorada gathered for the annual Labor Day service at the Hurricane Memorial on Upper Matecumbe Key. They were thinking of hurricanes past — and present.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials Thursday evening faced a crowd of Keys residents strongly opposed to removing the Key deer from the Endangered Species List.

The federal government is considering removing the iconic Key deer from the Endangered Species List.

In the last few months, Key West has banned the sale of chemical sunscreens and the use of styrofoam and some pesticides on city property. Now the city is taking on single-use plastics.

The first report came in on Monday. An Antillean Palm-Swift was spotted soaring above Grassy Key.

In the world of serious birders, that's big news.

There are a lot of challenges to living in the Florida Keys. The biggest is the cost of living. But even some people who can afford to live in the Keys are leaving anyway for another reason — the lack of access to medical care.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed or majorly damaged more than 7 percent of the homes in the Keys. A lot of those were ground level and mobile homes — what passes for affordable housing on the island chain.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came to Marathon to announce a new state program that will provide $140 million for affordable workforce housing.

The red tide on Florida's Gulf Coast last year killed dolphins, manatees and fish. A new study finds the toxic algae also affects stone crab, one of Florida's most valuable seafood products.

Hurricane Irma was at Category 4 strength when it crossed the Florida Keys in September of 2017. And the Keys are still in the rebuilding process, even as a new hurricane season starts.

Rainy season in South Florida means it's also mosquito season. And now there's a new weapon being added to the arsenal against the insects in the Florida Keys.

Five years ago, a new coral disease was found right off downtown Miami. It has now spread through the Florida reef tract, from Martin County down past Key West. In response, scientists are taking unprecedented measures to make sure some coral survives, at least in captivity.

State wildlife investigators announced Tuesday that they've wrapped up a two-year investigation targeting what they say is a criminal conspiracy in the spiny lobster fishing industry.

Lobster is Florida's most valuable commercial fishery, with landings usually worth more than $40 million a year.

Investigators went undercover and conducted surveillance in what they called "Operation Thimblerig." Thimblerig is another term for shell game.

Three people face felony charges including racketeering, fraud and identity theft.

Four Keys cities and Monroe County have sent FEMA bills for more than $91 million from Hurricane Irma. A year and a half after the storm, they have received less than 12 percent of the money.

After Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys in September of 2017, lots of volunteers came to help with clean up. Almost a year and a half later, there's still work to do repairing homes, and volunteers who want to help.

The challenge has been finding them a place to stay.

If you look for vacation rentals in the Florida Keys, you may notice a lot of boats offered as lodging. Now Monroe County has brought a code compliance case against one of the owners.

Michael Dewitt says he's put $130,000 into fixing up his 40-foot sportfishing boat, docked behind his house on Little Torch Key.

So when a property manager approached him about renting it as a vacation rental on Airbnb, he agreed.

"It sat behind my house empty, I had a couple of neighbors that were doing the exact same thing - that are still doing the exact same thing," he said.

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