MIAMI — As the devastated Florida Keys began reopening to residents who fled Hurricane Irma, officials warned the returning islanders to bring enough supplies to sustain them for a while, because no one yet knows when water and power will be fully restored.

“The Keys are not what you left several days ago when you evacuated. Electricity, sewer and water are intermittent at best,” said Monroe County Mayor George Neugent during a news conference Saturday.

Officials opened up U.S. 1 on Saturday all the way south to Marathon for residents, business owners, disaster workers and supply trucks. They also announced plans to let the same groups have access all the way to Key West starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Recovery efforts are well underway with the Salvation Army planning to serve 5,000 barbecue dinners Saturday night in Marathon and Key West, marking the first hot meals for many since Irma made landfall nearly a week ago.

Roads were being cleared and recovery centers are being set up in the area to help residents fill out FEMA, insurance and small business relief paperwork. Even Publix was open until 5 p.m. on Friday.

HARSH CONDITIONS FOR RETURNEES

Officials had agonized over the decision to reopen the islands, knowing residents were desperate to assess the damage with their own eyes, yet worried about harsh living conditions for those who choose to return.

Curfews remained in effect and returning residents received a clear message from Keys officials – you must be self-sufficient. They encouraged residents to bring tents, small air conditioning units, food, water and medications.

Officials said their detailed hurricane plan didn’t account for some unique challenges brought by Irma, which nearly wiped out parts of the middle Keys, while Key West remained in decent shape.

Getting Key West residents and businesses owners to the southernmost point remained a challenge as authorities work to keep out tourists, gawkers, looters and others who could hamper recovery efforts.

Nearly two dozen checkpoints in the hardest-hit areas will be heavily staffed with law-enforcement officers to check IDs to ensure only authorized residents and relief workers get through.

Meanwhile, officials said they hope to open government offices, courts and schools in the Keys on September 28.

Further north in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, students in two of the nation’s largest school districts still don’t know when they’ll return to class, forcing many Florida parents to juggle child care as they head into a second week of recovering from Hurricane Irma.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties had hoped to resume operations Monday. But dozens of schools in the two districts – which serve almost 700,000 students – are still without power. An announcement is expected this weekend. In many South Florida counties, school has not been in session since Sept. 6, putting additional stress on parents trying to return to work.

KEEPINGS KIDS BUSY IS TOUGH

For Lori Eickleberry, 45, who owns a psychology practice with two offices in South Florida, it means dragging her 10-year-old daughter to work with her.

“It’s challenging but we kept busy with activities, some coloring,” said Eickelberry, of Coconut Grove.

Some parents say the worst part of the hurricane’s aftermath has been the lack of options for children as many stores, pools and water parks have been closed due to cleanup efforts and no power.

Elayne Norweb, 36, says her oldest daughter got sick because of the humidity.

“Everything feels out of sorts. Without power and AC we have been challenged to play activities. With a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old it’s not always the easiest to keep them occupied. So, we are really looking forward to starting school,” she said.

Evelio Torres, president of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe County, said many area preschools had water damage after Irma and had to repair their roofs or leaks before reopening.