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Surviving Hurricane Ian

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The Storm

While Ft. Myers and Naples were closer to Hurricane Ian, the fact remains that the center of the hurricane was between 30-40 miles wide by the time it impacted the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, which are much further north of Ft. Myers. In fact, these cities are closer to Sarasota and Venice, thus, Venice received its first ever near direct hit.

Venice is where I live and the eye of the hurricane arrived by 2 p.m. Sept. 28-29th. This was not expected. Living on a large lake, the water had risen at least 6-7 feet by 5 p.m. and looked like a small ocean with 1ft. waves. The wind was averaging 110 mph with gusts of 155 mph and slamming against our north facing home for 4 hours. The shutters on the windows made a lot of noise and at times reopened by the wind. The trees, many very large, began to lean and two 30 ft. high palms eventually would hit our roof. But, that was the only beginning of the horrors that would come within the hour.

The howling wind, which blew the pouring rain horizontally, was incessant. Around 2:30 p.m., the first horror arrived. The hurricane had blown off the lanai’s waterproofing layer exposing the gap between the angles roof and the flat lanai roof. This gap was not sealed and water was falling in good amounts down the rafters and walls. We strived to catch it with buckets to no avail and quickly move the bedroom furniture from the room into the adjacent room. Suddenly, the sheet rock from the roof began to fall in predicted sequence exposing the rug to water. What a nightmare. As soon as this emergency situation was handled, the dining room area fell victim to the water getting in through the gap with the same consequences. Once again, we rushed to move the furniture to safer rooms, which by now, was limited.

But that was not all. The water found its way into the kitchen and the electricity\water had gone out. As I looked out the windows, it was a “white out” blizzard with wind blasting at the unprotected windows with rain. Outside, our street had become a small river! Water began to pour out of one the cabinets. All the rugs and foam were soaked from the master bedroom, dining, and kitchen areas. Even the tiled portion of the rooms had plenty of water that eventually would reach the rooms not impacted by the storm. During this battle, the situation was very chaotic in all aspects, even down to keeping track of things no matter how organized you tried to keep it. Of course, it is emergency situations that make you realize what you are lacking because you need it!

By 6 p.m., much of Venice was no longer in the eye of the hurricane but wind remained hovering around 50-70 mph. The rain lightened up. Tampa, some 70 miles north had been spared as was much of Sarasota, 10 miles from Venice. The amount of debris from all sources was shocking to see the next morning.

For us, according to FEMA, we had Level 3 damage (50% loss). I had filed an application the next day and within a few days an inspector from Mississippi had arrived. She told me that the most FEMA will pay for loss is 37K in grant money and that this money does NOT need to be reported as income for tax purposes. Any repairs made due to Ian can be tax deductible. I received $18K from FEMA that was electronically sent within days after the inspection. This process can take up to 10 days for a decision.


The Aftermath

They say that for the first three days after a major disaster, things are chaos. We were without electricity and water for five days. During those five days we were camping inside the house! We barbequed most meals, had plenty of bottled water, took bathes in our neighbor’s pool that had also lost its pool screen, and used that water to flush toilets. Carrying the buckets of water was tedious. At night, our flashlights and candles provided light. We used the other two bedrooms that did not suffer damage to live in but it was very, very messy, well beyond after Ian had gone.

We are still living in the aftermath. Everyone wants the same things to make repairs. The major stores don’t have these things. Many need contractors or handyman to repair the roofs or cut trees. The huge demand draws others from Texas and beyond to make money. Roofers overcharge now, as does most others. Gasoline was scarce for the three days after Ian. Wherever you go, there are large trees down including some huge ones blown down by 155 mph wind. Stores have shorter hours now due to staffing issues. Traffic is worse since many “snowbirds” have come earlier than usual to deal with the damages and emergency vehicles are everywhere.

The amount of debris from all sources along the side of the roads is incredible. The amount of garbage and recycleables that need to be picked up is staggering, making one wonder where are they putting all this? Some water treatment plants are dumping the wastes into the rivers because they are over capacity.

For us, the water and electricity came back on Oct. 2., but the critical Internet did not. It came on in sporadic manner, which was quite frustrating and it remains this way for many others two weeks later. Cell phone use using LTE was a joke. Nothing could be searched for information on your cell phones as some key towers were down. So for the five days after Ian hit, we knew very little about our surroundings or news. As for AC, well, that remains off since the repairs have not been completed and turning on the AC would be a waste of money, so, using fans does help but it remains too warm in the house.

The hurricane also caused extensive flooding in North Port and Port Charlotte south of Venice. So much so, Interstate 75 was closed when the Myakka River flooded over its banks. Many other streets were impassable for days.

No matter how well one is prepared for a natural disaster, one never is. Something is always forgotten or disorganized. One can only mitigate the chaos, not eliminate it!