Bill Barnett sharing Naples Potpourri

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year and I hope you are enjoying the holidays. For those of you that follow my articles in Life In Naples you know that we have many relatives
in Buffalo, New York, that we are avid Bills fans and that we spend our summers there. As I write this today it is the first day that there is some movement there after suffering the worst blizzard in over 100 years. We hear daily first-hand reports from our relatives that it has been five days of Hell, and they are for all intents and purposes some of the lucky ones. I’m sure by now everyone has read all there is to read about that blizzard which was the worst in Buffalo’s history and the horror stories that go with it. There was an article in today’s New York Post (I have to admit I read the New York Post every day) and the headline of the article was “A damning calm before storm”. It was written by the Post editorial board and the substance of the article was how could a city known for its fierce winters not protect its residents. The article went on to say that prior to the storm, businesses were urged to close but the travel ban wasn’t announced until 41 minutes before the storm was beginning to bear down on them.

So, you ask why I am writing about this? I thought it might be a good personal comparison between two disasters: a Florida hurricane and the worst blizzard that Buffalo has ever seen. I thought with my personal experience as Mayor dealing with hurricanes it would be an interesting task. Dealing with both severe hurricanes Wilma, Irma and the monster Ian all hit us hard in Florida and I can tell you that giving advance notice as far ahead as possible is a must, and obviously it wasn’t done in Buffalo. But there’s more to this story. Both with a blizzard approaching, and a hurricane approaching people certainly watch the weather days ahead, be it local news, The Weather Channel or the radio. They can follow the approach of both and make decisions based on what they hear. It’s absolutely a true story that Buffalo residents are tough. No doubt about it, and they’ve seen their fair share over the years of nasty snowstorms, high winds, icy conditions and yes, they are used to them. However, 41 minutes advance notice is absurd, and I don’t know what the powers to be were thinking. That though was the major problem with this blizzard, they didn’t think. Everyone thought they were tough enough to rough this one out. Even if they had been warned four or five days earlier, I’m not sure they would have heeded the warning. However, the people should have been given the chance that this was the big one and told what they needed to do in case it became a reality, but they weren’t, and it was deadly.

I can tell you much of what I just wrote is also true about a hurricane The big difference with a hurricane is people are advised whether to evacuate or not, and with enough time to do so. There are many who have been through hurricanes before and chose not to evacuate. This even after being warned what was coming was not going to be a good experience and the evacuation was mandatory. They all had their own reasons for not heeding the evacuation
warnings and they made it through with little or no damage. This gave them the confidence that they could get through a hurricane. Once the hurricane evacuation warnings have been given and the hurricane bears down there comes a time when a lockdown ensues and there will be no emergency services available until the hurricane has passed. In both weather
emergencies preparation is key. Bottom line, it made me ill to read about folks freezing to death in their cars because they couldn’t get out or be rescued. Here in Florida with Hurricane Ian even though nobody knew exactly where it was going, they sure knew how big it was. Sadly, there were many who ignored evacuating and it cost them their lives. I pray for the future that we all take heed when the weather alarm goes off and do as much as humanly possible to try and stay safe. Mother Nature is like the shingles commercial on
television, “She doesn’t care!”.

We still have many issues to deal with in Naples that were hurricane related but we will recover although it is going to take at least a few years or more for some of them. It is a busy season and it’s nice to see for our local businesses, hotels, and great restaurants. It’s also nice to see a lot of happy tourists.

       Stay well and enjoy what we have to offer.

Bill Barnett, Former Mayor
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