Weathering Irma

For many of our readers, who arrived later than 2005, when Wilma came to town, Irma was the first major hurricane they experienced. Because this came on the heels of Harvey, everyone was on high alert. But before Houston nearly drowned under Harvey’s 50”+ of continuous rain and wind, Naples had its own Harvey, a forgotten, but fierce Tropical Storm, in mid-September 1999.

Although I had been in Naples for a few years, I had never seen the streets overflow with storm water, let alone experience this lapping up to the doors of my house. I remember it well – for my oldest daughter had just arrived home days before as a newborn. Thinking back to that “little storm” made me appreciate the degree to which the stresses Irma and Wilma before placed on all of us. Can you imagine delivering a baby in the middle of the storm, with the hospital operating on generators? Or not knowing if your baby would have a home in which to live, after the storm? We may live in Paradise, but, for a week or more this past September, I know many of us felt like this was Paradise lost.

The meteorologists provided updates every three hours. When the storm began tracking back to the West, the uncertainty of the path and the fears of storm surge created turmoil in our collective minds. Time to prepare – possibly for the worst.
For life in Naples during storm season, much of our storm prep and planning boils down to managing anxiety. What can you tolerate? Many decided to evacuate. This decision brought other issues. Gas lines and shortages created new fears. What if gas wasn’t available on the road? And, unless you got lucky or planned well in advance – hotels were booked beyond Georgia.

Also, the sheer magnitude of the storm meant travels might place you in the harm’s way. During Wilma, many locals fled to
Fort Lauderdale, only to have the storm follow their course, leaving many stranded far longer than planned, without gas, electricity and groceries. For Wilma, I left my 1952 home but stayed in a newer, local pet-friendly hotel. For Irma, in a different home, with a new roof, I felt comfortable staying on, provided Irma remained a Category 3 or under. But talk of the surge caused me to rethink this plan.

Fortunately, I was able to remain in town in a friend’s secure home located on a higher elevation. For me, part of grappling with the uncertainties of the storm pattern was the ability to remain close at hand to assess conditions and damage as soon as it was safe to do so, after the storm.

Another part of managing anxiety is the gathering of hurricane kits, which include your important papers, medicines, food and water for pets and people for several days, flashlights, batteries and a radio, as well as other valuables and sentimental items which were irreplaceable. During times of storms, people have different diets than usual, and these changes precede and follow the storm. It may be the “Hurricane” diet – on one hand, some lost their appetites; others sought comfort
food – and drink. As a result, whether or not you participated in the Hurricane “clean up” workout this time, it involved rolling 40 lb Royal Palm tree logs – some found themselves leaner after the storm. Doing this without the benefit of air conditioning also helped some shed a few more lbs.

Besides weight, collectively, many of us lost the barriers we set up among ourselves and the world. Though nerves were frayed, generally, it seemed, people did their best in trying times. They checked in on neighbors. Patiently waited in lines. Let those in need go first for supplies. Volunteered at organizations serving the hardest hit, such Chokoloskee, Everglades City and Immokalee. All over town, people brought food and beverages to thank first responders and lineman
helping our City. The streets are cleared of debris, though piles remain nearby, and  grocery shelves are full. Still, in this Thanksgiving month, remember there will be many going without as Irma recovery efforts continue.

Typically, I cover a charitable organization in this column, or write a round-up article about several with needs that you, our reader, can fulfill. Here, I give a nod to three organizations who stepped in after Irma and continue to help those in need for the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond.

Need Assistance?

The Harry Chapin Food Bank
(profiled here in the Aug-Sept-Oct 2012 issue) can be reached at or via phone: 239.337.1399

Collier Homeless Coalition or via phone: 239.263.9363

Meals of Hope or 239.537.7775

1 reply
  1. Lori Monserrat
    Lori Monserrat says:

    So relatable and thoughtful Karen! Thank you for shedding light on those who are still dealing with the aftermath of Irma!


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