Hurricane Ian Brings Out the Best in Neighbors
It was a dark and stormy night when Ian came to town. High winds of 75 mph and rain gusts buffeted the Bay area, after laying to communities in the southwest. Wednesday night, September 28, was a long one for those who chose to stay put, many in light of the adjusted forecast slightly shifting the storm’s projected landfall to Lee County. When the worst had passed, and the weather slowly cleared on Thursday, residents began assessing the damage to their homes and property.
The rumble of chainsaws, the whining of leaf blowers, and the screeching of metal rakes against concrete began early Thursday. The cooler temperatures and lower humidity seemed to invigorate activity. Neighbors were helping neighbors throughout the storm cycle, beginning with advance storm preparation assistance, through evacuations, providing shelter, supporting each other through the storm’s passing, and aiding with post-storm clean up. The ready responses to Hurricane Ian show that commitment to kindness is strong in the Old Northeast and surrounds. It was a slow-moving storm, and it was joked that waiting for Hurricane Ian was like “being stalked by a turtle.” Nerves were frayed; humor helped.
Just prior to the storm, anyone venturing out Wednesday afternoon may have witnessed the tremendous power of wind and outgoing tide on our waterfront. Canals were reduced to a trickle, and boats lay askew on muddy bottoms where water once was. Docks seemed to lead to nowhere, suspended on spindly oyster-covered pilings 10 to 12 feet above mud where the water typically flowed. Some adventuresome souls even walked on tidal mud flats hundreds of yards out into the Bay with the wind whipping their hats and tearing at their jackets.
Following the storm, damage was everywhere, though it could certainly have been much worse. There were branches, palm fronds, and other debris strewn on streets and lawns. Pool motors were jammed with leaves. Rooftops were tested. On balconies and in yards, potted plants were spilled, and early Halloween decorations were carried off into the night by the savage wind. Some signs and awnings were downed, and more than a few trees crashed to the ground, not just the small ones. Freezers were emptied everywhere after power outages. (What was in that Tupperware anyway?)
Neighbors Felix and Donna Fudge on 14th Avenue once again provided shelter to friends living in evacuation zones, as they have done through a number of storms since purchasing their beautiful brick home in 1998. In the relative quiet of the morning, they surveyed the damage in their front yard. They lost a large, 60-year-old laurel oak to Hurricane Ian, and as Donna explained, “It was a miracle. The tree fell in a direction that spared all structures, and the branches caught and held the tree trunk just above our son’s friend Jake’s car, like a canopy.” When the branches were removed by another neighbor, the car didn’t have any damage at all. “Truly miraculous!” beamed Donna.
Tom Golden, a neighbor on 11th Avenue and operator of local restaurant The Lure, immediately began clean-up of his own yard after Ian, and then that of an elderly neighbor. “I just went over with my Sawzall and began cutting branches and helping clear the big stuff.” While loss of power was spotty here, areas around Ft. Myers were devastated and very few had power after the storm. “My brother was heading down to check on property there, and we loaded as much as we could into his truck, including several generators, cans of gas, and tools,” said Tom. As was made clear in the days following the storm, many people lost everything – some their lives.
On the neighborhood social media site Nextdoor, friendly neighbor Andrew Orr offered the following for folks who fled the storm, shared here with his permission: “I live on 10th Avenue NE and Locust. After Hurricane Irma I rode around on the e-bike taking pics for people who wanted an assessment of any storm damage to their home. This time I will be riding around the Old Northeast neighborhood after the storm again. If anyone wishes me to ride by their home to assess any damage, please just shoot me a text with your address and I will put you on the list. I can ride by, take some pics, and then text them to you. No charge!” Surely Andrew gave piece of mind to many who evacuated.
On a morning walk, two ladies in a golf cart were overhead speaking to a neighbor the day after Hurricane Ian. The apparent homeowner, and his pixie-sweet daughter, were standing together on their small bungalow porch, while he greeted the two in golf cart. “…it got a little tight with five adults, five children, and two dogs in a two-bedroom, one-bath house. We made it,” he said with a sigh and a smile. Maybe that’s why he was outside on the porch, getting some air and space. The daughter poked her head between the balusters of the porch, looking a bit like a tiny prisoner. Her hair in twiggy pig tails, she looked like the child nicknamed Boo in the animated movie Monsters Inc.
While the Old Northeast and the rest of the Bay area have mostly moved on from the storm, our neighbors to the south still need our help. Contribute your time, money, talents, or all three. Here are just a few organizations supporting survivors of the storm: AmericanRedCross.org; World Central Kitchen at wkc.org; MercyChefs.com, whose mission is “just go feed people”; FeedingTampaBay.org; Samaritanspurse.org; and help for pets at humanesociety.org/hurricane-ian-response.