Disaster Leads to Determination | Resilience Will Drive Us To A Brighter Future
Oct 30, 2017 03:11PM
Gallery: Disaster Leads to Determination - Photos of Hurricane Irma [48 Images] Click any image to expand.
When Hurricane Irma threatened Southwest Florida, and particularly the barrier island we call home, I feared the worst. The forecast of a huge storm surge and wild winds got my full attention, and a mandatory evacuation order is not something to ignore.
Irma affected so many people in our area, some dramatically more than others. But from the coast to the eastern parts of our region, there was an instant reaction from our community to get out there and give help to those in need. The storm passed and it was time for action, for people to reach out to assist when normally they might not.
We Southwest Floridians are defining our fight to return to pre-Irma conditions.
Cutting and hauling huge trees from a neighbor’s property, dragging debris off the road, tearing down a damaged fence, and taking cold water and warm food to those who needed it—all of these things and more happened immediately. The residents, and the few visitors who were here, got over the shock and became determined to rise above the disaster, and to help their neighbors rise above it, as well.
I am finding that just following the daily routine—same as before Irma—I now approach with a renewed appreciation. The people who live here and their shared passion for paradise fuel my optimism. Their love of Southwest Florida has led to a huge outpouring of good deeds, and our resilience will drive us beyond disaster to a brighter future. For sure, Southwest Florida continues to be home for many of us and will be the preferred destination for our visitors.
We all learned a lot! I think the inner determination we have discovered is promising glimmer of hope for all of us going forward into this most wonderful season of the year.
I am thankful to everyone, to you as our loyal subscriber, our advertisers and to our wonderful TOTI team and associates.
Below you'll find the stories of the people who live here and their shared passion for paradise. If you'd like to share your story of determination and resiliency please submit your story here.
Happy holidays and a healthy prosperous New Year!
Daniela E. Jaeger
Group Publisher, TOTI Media
Bailey's General Store on Sanibel Island
The Story of Alden “Buzz” Osterbusch and his Wife Nancy, Fort Myers
The Story of Luc Century
I’ve lived on Sanibel Island for 35 years and my wife’s been here for 40, so we’ve evacuated half a dozen times. We knew we weren’t going to stick it out because the forecasts for Hurricane Irma were bad and we didn’t want to take the risk.
I packed up the van with loads of my glass art. I didn’t feel safe keeping it at my home, or transporting it over land to my storage unit. It was a large project.
I had a reservation at the Homewood Suites in Fort Myers a full week prior. We got there at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, and by 1 p.m. it was announced that Zone B had to be evacuated. (Homewood Suites was in Zone B.) They kicked everybody out. Most people were leaving, but a lot of them were in tears and didn’t know where to go.
Fortunately, we somehow managed to secure a room across the street at the Crowne Plaza hotel. We thought we were so fortunate to have the room on the fifth floor until the security guard told us that the windows were built to hold up against only 85 mph winds. Forecasts showed Irma would have wind gusts of over 100 mph.
We waited a couple of hours, and I started wondering if my Homewood Suites key still worked. I never got an email confirming a checkout, so I went back; everybody was gone. The building was only two or three stories tall, but in 2004 we rode out hurricane Charley there, so I thought we’d be safe. I tried the key on the door, and it still worked.
We decided to return to our room at Homewood Suites, and we took half of our things with us, leaving the other half in the bathroom at the Crowne Plaza. We spent two nights, and nobody else was there. We had a cooler, the room stayed cool, and I could come and go. We watched the storm from the windows. At times like that you just have to take matters into your own hands. Then we spent Monday back at the Crowne Plaza before returning home Tuesday afternoon.
My house is only at 5 feet of elevation, so I was worried about the storm surge. There were lots of branches down compared to past storms, but it wasn’t as bad as Charley, which had a bigger storm surge. It was the equivalent to a super high tide, so it was very manageable for islanders. We were very fortunate.
JetBlue Care Team
The Story of Kathy Rice
That Monday, Marianne Lorini, president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL), recruited me to join her to help answer the United Way 211 hotline at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center. People, looking for everything from gasoline and oxygen to cat food, continued to call non-stop. It was exhausting. I applaud those volunteers for the days they spent providing helpful information to those in need.
I also applaud the work done by the AAASWFL staff. I am a board member and I know that there are great needs for our aging and disabled population on a daily basis, as well as during and after a crisis like Irma. AAASWFL is a resource center for seven counties; it provides access to services that not only improve the quality of life for seniors and the disabled population but also help to keep people “happy at home.”
As the AAASWFL staff answered the Elder Helpline, they addressed many urgent needs. They went above and beyond their job descriptions to deliver donated items like water and grocery gift cards. Staff-supported FEMA information desks worked overtime and rose to the occasion to support our community in a time of need. I am proud to be the vice-chair of the board of this important community organization.
The Story of Zachary Roberts and his Wife Libby Gerstel
Beaten and Battered, But Not Broken - Local Residents Contended Quite Well with Hurricane Irma’s Impact
The Story of Janis Morgan, Bonita Springs
At 2:30 p.m. on Monday, the water began coming through the walls of my home, with flooding measuring 4-5 inches. Outside my house the water rose to about 9 inches, and at the end of my block, it reached 4 feet.
I stayed home and felt safe there, even though we lost power. However, in the future, I would evacuate in similar circumstances.
Although a month has past since the storm, we are still not back to normal. But each day we get closer. Even though I’ve been displaced and probably won’t get back into my home for another month, I’ve been blessed with my family, friends and the kindness of perfect strangers.
The Story of Sue Tangredi, Bonita Springs
My store at the flea market was a one-day gangbuster prep. I had to take all of my canvases and photos off the wall, wrap them and stack them elevated on a couple of tables in the event of a water breach.
My home sits directly on the Estero River. Up until Friday, September 8, I was very much in control. But on Saturday when the path moved to the West Coast, I completely fell apart.
We decided to stay because there really was no viable option or place to evacuate to by the time the storm shifted west. Hunkering down was safer than being stuck on the highway somewhere. And, after this experience—with the size of the storm and how our home held up—we will probably stay should something like this occur again.
Fortunately, the damage, was not as much as we anticipated. Our lanai cage was destroyed, our well pump and air-conditioning unit were damaged, and our property had tons of tree debris.
We lost power the morning of September 10, and we didn’t get it back for nine days. After the third day, we were able to purchase a generator from Northern Tool.
Now, a month later, I still don’t feel completely back to normal. The stress really took its toll on me physically, and I ended up with bronchitis as a result.
In the eye of Hurricane Irma - How Southwest Florida Survived One of the Most Powerful Storms in History
If you'd like to share your story of determination and resiliency please submit your story here.