Realities of Life for Hurricane Ian Victims

On September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida. With sustained winds of 150 mph, it caused extensive flooding, damage and loss of life, with property damage estimates of up to $258 billion. And that number doesn’t take into account business interruptions and human misery.

It’s just awful, we think. And after a few weeks of distress over photos and videos of storm-ravaged neighborhoods, we move on to the Next Big Thing.

My sister and her husband did not move; their home in Fort Myers Beach was badly damaged by the storm.

When we were kids, my sister’s nickname was Beauteous (pronounced Bu-TAY-us; if you saw her, you’d know why), usually abbreviated as B. She’s knowledgeable, organized, assertive, and persuasive. But coping with the challenges presented by Ian tests his usually impenetrable resolve.

When Ian made landfall, B. and her husband were in Ohio, preparing for their annual road trip to Florida, where they spend their winters. Through emails, texts, and voicemails, I learned, bit by bit, what she and other Floridians are up against, with no end in sight. It’s not pretty.

Her initial responses, shown below, reveal that she didn’t yet know what she was dealing with:

October 12: “Today I’m feeling a little down because things aren’t moving fast enough. Florida Power and Light is putting a burden on every home that’s still standing due to a required inspection. So many Older homes (like from the late 1980s) have their electrical boxes mounted only at heights of three or four feet, and they’ve all been destroyed.

“As soon as we have word on the water, we’ll be leaving, but it’s still up in the air.”

Oct. 15: “Florida Power and Light removed every electric meter from every home to firmly say, ‘No electricity until you reevaluate and contact us. I think that’s pretty ugly. All last week there have been phone calls after phone calls for replacement liner, Tyvek, skylight louvers, garage doors, equipment to run the pool; constantly with claims adjusters.

“We have the elevator guy waiting to come by, the electrical guy waiting to come by, and the lawn guy waiting to come by to help us get the fridge out that’s in the pool and unload all the trash on the pool deck. I’m told there’s tons and tons of dirt and mud on every exterior surface, not to mention the salty residue inside and out.”

October 17: “This morning I spoke with a mean beach town manager who told me that the Army Corps of Engineers will be combing the streets to do exterior home security inspections and will put either a red tag or a yellow tag on each door handle, we’ll see where it goes, because we won’t respect a red tag [which would prohibit entering the house].

“We can’t keep messing around any longer. We have to keep going because nothing can be fixed from here. Mold will already start to form on the lower level, and the integrity of this type of damage needs to be checked. Do I really want to go?The answer is no.

October 19: “We felt better when the vice mayor told us to send a letter to the director of public services saying ‘we are ready for the water to be restored’, and all our neighbors did the same. We received a terse paragraph saying “your water will not be restored until we have your electrical review and structural review. So now we are nowhere again. These examinations cannot be carried out until we are on the scene.

“Each day seems more awkward than the day before.”

A second message on October 19: “We now have excellent photos sent to us by our FEMA representative. The photos of our basement are extremely poor. it’s here.”

October 21: “We learned that the main water pipe on our street had been restored.”

October 22: “I’m tired of the rules leaving everything up in the air. I can’t get into the beach on Monday and Tuesday because of the heavy equipment everywhere. I can be there Wednesday through Saturday, with hours of closing and opening from 9 a.m. to 5. I can’t leave my house at 5 p.m. and go to dinner I won’t be allowed back in. It’s really too much to handle, but we have to do it. don’t want to work on the beach and everyone complains about the management of the city.”

October 23: “We’re going to be shutting down my laptop very soon. Our truck is about 90% full. I have to pack our travel food. Everything should be fine. been just awful.”

Upon arrival, and reality kicks in: “We walked into our house a few days ago and had hysterical reactions. Everything in the garage is in shambles, sitting in two inches of dried yellow and black mold, that takes over everything. It took us two days just to clear a catwalk to start working on anything.

“There’s a commercial company that has to rip out the drywall, spray the walls down to the ceiling, and remove the staircase that goes up from the garage to the house.

“If we don’t deal with the mold in the next few weeks, it will invade the house and continue to grow.

“The pool is basically destroyed, filled with yellow/green and black water floating around with whatever was in our neighbors basement. brought out of his garage into the swimming pool. It’s a very toxic environment.

“I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this, so what we’re trying to do is take care of the mold, take care of the pool, and then the cleaning will last for quite a while.”

October 26: “There are no words to describe what it is here. It looks like Ukraine. There are piles of garbage everywhere. And no one cares.

“We eat well and try to control our stress. I just wanted you to know that we are doing well, compared to 90% of the others. There is no one in the skyscrapers; it is pitch black. I believe that ‘they have been structurally altered in one way or another.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to let it all overwhelm us. I just hope we can continue. I’ll talk to you soon.

Nov. 3: “The city has partnered with the Lee County Building Industry Association to host an open house with licensed builders and contractors, and has implemented a resident wristband process to ensure that they can obtain catering and convenience services and facilities intended only for those who live on the island.”

November 4: “Day 9 of going home from our hotel. I continue to witness untold devastation; it’s starting to take hold of our emotions. Ten-hour workdays living in a cooler, temperatures of 92 degrees The idea of ​​leaving has resurfaced, but we can’t… This property, acquired 22 years ago, is our retirement home, we have to give it one more chance.

“You know, human beings aren’t programmed to process or even understand this destruction, but our spirits keep talking to us, for as long as it takes. We’re fine – just OK – but everything will be fine in the J’ I have everything under control a little more every day. We just have to do it right.

To be continued …

Karen Martin is the editor of Perspective.

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In this aerial photo taken on a flight provided by mediccorps.org, damage from Hurricane Ian is seen on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, September 30. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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