As Florida Keys slowly reopen after Irma, residents grow frustrated

One reporter who made it to the Florida Keys compares the damage to a "war zone." Most of the low-lying islands have no running water or communication and almost 53,000 customers in the island chain are without power. Route 1, the only road in and out of the Keys, was closed for inspection following Hurricane Irma.

The first people were being allowed back in Tuesday morning, with the access ban in some of the Keys lifted at 7 a.m. The ban is still in place in the lower Keys, reports CBS News' Mark Strassmann.

It is only the beginning of what is slated to be a very long recovery process. The Florida Keys, in the wake of a Hurricane Irma, is a 115-mile stretch of paradise that has been overwhelmed with debris and destruction.

In places like Marathon, people's homes were obliterated by 130 mph winds and nearly 15-feet of storm surge. About 30 miles away in Key West, entire homes and businesses are leveled and sections of the overseas highway -- the only route in and out of the Keys -- remain inaccessible. Crews are racing to clear the road for first responders trying to reach those who need help.

County officials say the 42 bridges that span the Keys need to be inspected before all of the islands can be reopened. About half of the bridges were reported safe by Monday evening.

"They continue to evaluate the infrastructure, the roadways, the health hazards that they find, prior to allowing the residents to come in," said Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta at a press conference.

The reentry ban was tough to take for a crowd of frustrated Floridians eager to return home.

"I have water, I have food, I have dogs, and I can't get to my house!" yelled one homeowner.

"Right now we don't know where to go... get somebody that does know!" shouted another.

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Aerial view of part of the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma

CBS News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged patience after viewing the damage from the air. Three U.S. Navy ships including an aircraft carrier are now positioned off of Florida's east coast to help with recovery.

As the remnants of Hurricane Irma continue to push north, the entire state of Florida is beginning to assess the damage left behind from the storm. Millions remain without power across at least three states. From the air, Irma's destruction along the Florida Keys is overwhelming. Peoples' homes have been reduced to piles of mangled lumber.