I went to Fort Myers this week to support family and friends and saw the devastating toll hurricane Ian has taken on this community.
For the first time since joining LiveAndLetsFly.com, I do not have posts available for today. Make no mistake, I have outlines and words (even images) ready for a post on an issue with Chase bank’s international wire division, further reflection on JetBlue’s NEA trial, and what a given outcome might mean for JetBlue, Spirit, and American Airlines.
I also gathered images of the devastation as we struggled to make our way to Fort Myers, Florida. But for now, it doesn’t feel right to post anything besides what it’s been like in the aftermath of the most damaging Fort Myers hurricane in history.
Many of our readers come here for miles and points commentary – you won’t find that today. Rather, I am solely going to disclose why we are here, how we got here, and what the current situation looks like.
Making Our Way
Family members that remained in Fort Myers, Florida on Wednesday, as well as friends that couldn’t leave in time were stuck riding out a powerful Category 4 Hurricane that was 1 MPH wind speed shy of a Category 5. Without power, potable water, or fuel, mere survival becomes challenging. And without power, cold food storage is lost, and so is the ability to cook canned goods for many who are not permitted frills by their housing associations.
With a generator, fuel cell, and food and water donations (not just from us but others that knew we were headed south) we went to make the 16-18 hour drive from Pennsylvania.
Due to limited fuel resources once in the state of Florida, we stopped frequently to top off, never sure of when or where our last refueling options would be. We also took an inefficient path following the national weather service and national hurricane center’s guidance for where and when the storm would hit next, opting for a western journey through Tennessee as opposed to North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Struggles, Hurdles, Challenges
After driving for more than 19 hours and being up for 23 hours, we pulled into a crowded Hampton Inn parking lot in northern Florida and slept in our vehicle (4 of us in a pickup truck) for about 45 minutes before continuing the journey. Through Orlando and Tampa we made our way down I-75 until we were diverted from our path as a key bridge was out.
That led to more than five hours of us driving down dead ends that Google, county Sheriffs, and emergency management teams couldn’t possibly know were closed off. With coolers full of perishable food, we finally drove past a road closed sign with water up through the truck’s wheel wells until we made it through to the other side and found our way to a known diversion. Through Port Charlotte, we witnessed first hand the devastation that the storm surge had on these communities and the aftermath of hurricane Ian.
Residents of a mobile home park were climbing trees to find items lost, entire sides of homes were aloft and stationary. The National Guard operated as traffic control. Access to Sanibel Island is in shambles as is the bridge that carried residents and visitors to the mainland. While I am unsure of the latest death toll, horrific stories from people we know of bodies being discovered gives the sense of loss that this community is suffering.
We have images and video, and I will share these either throughout the week or next Sunday. Stuff can always be replaced and I applaud President Joe Biden for opening funds for those who, like my niece, lost everything.
For now, I will just say that the images don’t really tell the story. This community will take years to rebuild and some may never fully recover. It’s more than what you see on the news or read in the press.
It’s tragic, and all-consuming.