As we write this Hurricane Irma churns slowly in our direction. It’s big, It’s dangerous and no one knows exactly where it’s headed. Unless there’s a sudden and surprising early turn north, it’s going to hit the Florida peninsula. No matter where in Florida the devastation is concentrated, there will surely be devastation from this strong hurricane.
We know that whether our Island is in the middle of it or on the edges of it, we’re going to be okay because we Islanders know how to take care of each other. There will be griping about how the aftermath is handled or shortages of supplies or what Town officials do or don’t do, but those are all incidentals in the recovery process. Actually without those, we’d all wonder if we were in the right place.
Most important in preparation and recovery is the sure knowledge that we are here for each other. That whatever comes, we will survive this together.
Challenges like this one are what forge strong bonds in a community. Let’s use this challenge to make our people, our neighborhoods, our town stronger.
We’ve seen positive signs all over the Island in the last few days. Friends helping put up shutters, neighbors sandbagging a low lying house, businesses giving employees time off to get their family and home ready for the storm. While sand has been in short supply on the Island, one local businessman has, at his own expense, bought and trucked sand onto the island for residents, at no cost to Islanders.
The hallmark of our Island is our sense of community. We brag about it. While sometimes we seem to be an Island of a dozen or more communities, when the chips or the power or water or AC are down, we pull together to make sure everyone is safe and well.
We still have some time before the storm hits…
Do you know your neighbors? Is there one neighbor that rarely speaks to anyone? Before this storm hits, go to their door and check on them. Get contact info. Ask if they are staying or going before the storm and where are they going. Be a good neighbor. In any other situation that might all sound a bit nosy, but in this one, it’s a sign of caring. Don’t assume someone else has checked on them.
See a house with outdoor furniture still sitting out, stop and ask if they need help moving it inside. Simple things like lifting a lawn chair may be impossible for them.
People hate to ask for help, especially the ones who most need it. Offer it freely. Look around and see who may need help – it’s the Islander thing to do.
After the storm, we’ll have a new set of challenges to deal with. Not having a crystal ball, we have no idea how much damage we’ll be facing on our Island, but we’re doing our part to be ready for both the storm and the aftermath. The Island Sand Paper is working now to make sure that if the need arises, we can help provide Islanders with information on recovery and repairs.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
For now, we want to encourage Islanders to listen to the Emergency Operations Center and Town Hall if they issue evacuation orders. We know “mandatory” does not mean they will force you to leave, but it does mean that they have determined that staying is just not safe. Furthermore, if you stay in a mandatory evacuation, you will eventually put the lives and safety of emergency responders in jeopardy. Do you want to do that?
Once winds ready 40mph, the Lee County Sheriff has stated that they will close the bridges in Lee County. So anyone staying on the Island when an evacuation is ordered after the winds pick up to 40mph is on their own. No fire response, no sheriff response, no ambulance response. Once the winds drop below 40, any calls received will be triaged, meaning the most critical will be addressed first. When responders do come to those seeking help on the Island, they may well have to pick their way through downed live wires, sewer spills and worse.
Don’t put them and yourself at risk, please leave if a mandatory evacuation order is issued.
Anyone who rode out Charley on the Island in 2004 dealt with 90mph winds and a maximum 9-foot storm surge. This is not Charley. Irma’s winds are now twice that. We don’t know what we’ll be getting, but please, please heed evacuation orders.
Once the storm has passed, we can all come back safely, assess and, together, get to work on rebuilding any damage Irma has brought our community.
Buildings and belongings are just stuff. Your life is irreplaceable.
Stay safe everyone!
Bob and Missy Layfield