Sometime early Sunday morning, Hurricane Irma is going to rip its way through the Florida Keys and the Hemingway House is directly in the path of the hurricane's core. Ignoring evacuation orders, the museum's 72-year-old manager and nine other staffers are staying in the house with the 54 cats that call the museum's grounds home.
Will they make it? On the one paw, the house has 18-inch thick limestone walls and sits on a high spot sixteen feet above sea level. Ernest Hemingway himself rode out the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the house. On the other paw, Hurricane Irma's eye is coming closer to the house than the 1935 storm and the storm surge over Key West may be unprecedented, with authorities expecting a fifteen-foot wall of water to wash over the island. Much will depend on how much the storm intensifies as it leaves Cuba and heads for the Florida peninsula.
In a video address on Friday, Mariel Hemingway, the author's granddaughter, pleaded with the staff to take the cats and leave the house. "Courage is grace under pressure," she said, quoting her grandfather. "But I think that's taking it a little too far."
We probably won't know how the house, its staff, and the cats have fared until late Sunday afternoon, when Coast Guard and media helicopters are able to make a survey.