It was just two weeks ago when southwest Florida got a very devastating visit from Hurricane Ian. As that hurricane made its way towards Florida all the indications were that Tampa Bay would get the direct hit. From all the weather reports on the TV stations in Tampa Bay, the spaghetti models, currents, winds, etc. we were looking at 10-15 foot high water surges and the Tampa Bay area being decimated with a category 4, and some even said 5, hurricane.
But then it began a slow but steady eastward turn, wind currents changed, the weather systems changed and by that Tuesday the direction had changed to Ian making land fall just south of Tampa Bay. Orders for evacuations had been ordered for the Tampa Bay area and were underway, but now evacuation orders were being put in place south of Tampa Bay. The storm continued to turn more eastward and the landfall also changed to further south around the Fort Myers area. Plans were already in place and people there were told to leave, get out and seek safety, but as always happens some decided to stay and “ride it out”.
And then………boom! Ian hit and it hit hard knocking out bridges, including the one to Sanibel Island, homes, businesses, human life and just created a destructive path that was unheralded. It totally wiped out Lee County and the surrounding areas and then moved across the state creating havoc and did an immense amount of damage in Volusia County before heading out to the Atlantic and up to the Carolinas. What it left in its wake looked like something out of WW II that would take not weeks and months, but years to rebuild. But hurricanes have no idea of the will and determination of the people of Florida simply because they have “been there, done that”. You may knock them down, but they will always get up and be even stronger when they do.
As for those of us in Tampa Bay, we all got down on our knees and said a big prayer of thanks to the man upstairs for sparing us. We had some wind, some rain, some bits of damage, some “minor” flooding and some power outages, but it was minuscule compared to southwest Florida. We dodged a huge bullet. Yet, with all that, there were, and are, some people in Tampa Bay bitching and complaining because they lost power for a few hours, or some places like Wal Mart had a lot of empty shelves and out of various foods. They didn’t care that a main distribution center for Wal Mart was totally destroyed by Ian or that roads were flooded and made trucking difficult in getting goods to stores. Some even have gone as far as saying in tweets and comments that it didn’t affect them so they don’t care. Regardless of the tragedy there will always be selfish people who only think of themselves.
On the other hand, the outpouring of help to the southwest part of the state has been incredible. Power companies from 37 states as far away as Montana came to Florida to work on restoring power to the communities. Builders and the Army Corp of Engineers rebuilt the bridge to Pine Island in 3 days and will have the access to Sanibel Island completed by the end of the month. Some of those out of state power companies are still here to make sure everyone has their power back as soon as possible. Food, clothing, money and whatever else is needed for the people down there keeps coming in, not only from people in Florida but from all over the country. The efforts of everyday people, helping one another and not caring about anything else but rebuilding lives, and giving love and hope is a constant positive among all the negative that Hurricane Ian brought to the area. It is definitely “Florida Strong”.
There are a number of legitimate organizations and charity groups that you can donate to and help our neighbors to the south, so please do whatever you can. It will be much appreciated and help restore lives. Never ever forget that two weeks ago this could have been us. Have a blessed day folks.
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN