Okay, let’s rewind a little bit. My husband and I were on the west coast when Ian was headed for Florida. We watched the news and I followed local SW Florida news and weather on Twitter. It became pretty clear Ian was headed right for the area of our property on the Peace River in Charlotte Harbor (Punta Gorda). I coached the kids long distance on how to prepare over many phone calls – have five days of food and water on hand. Make sure you have enough baby food and diapers. Fill your gas tanks. Keep as much cash on hand as possible (they’re broke, so I Zelle’d some cash to withdraw from an ATM).
The day before landfall, preparations became more urgent as not only was Ian targeting them directly, but the storm surge warnings for waterfront properties were dire. Predictions called for up to 18 feet of surge and the house is an old single-story ground level house, not on stilts. Well, there’s a 2nd floor studio apartment attached that we rent out, but the kids live on the ground floor. I urged them to evacuate, which was tricky with two large scary-to-some breed (Husky and enormous German Shepherd) hairy shedding dogs. Plus, it was the last minute and options were slim.
They went to inland Naples and miraculously were spared much of Ian’s wrath at their evacuation location. I watched CNN and was horrified and fascinated by the fact that I recognized every location reporters were stationed at (oh, that’s the parking garage in downtown Punta Gorda; oh, that’s the hotel on the waterfront with the tiki bar…). Being 3,000+ miles away was gut wrenching. They returned home the day after the storm and sent photos. On the one hand, they/we were lucky. The predicted storm surge devastated areas just south of us, and the river did flood with horrific consequences for homes and businesses north of us. Damage to the house was not yet fully assessed, but it was habitable. However, there was no power, no water, no internet and phone coverage was spotty. Stores were closed. They ran out of food. Looters were starting to pop up and fights broke out at the one Wawa that had generators, little left on the shelves and took cash only.
I started driving to Florida as fast as I could with a full tank of propane, a battery/inverter, a van full of food and a wad of cash (and my dog).
Upon my arrival, the place was unrecognizable. I arrived at 9:30pm at night, so after dark, but even just turning off the main road onto our street, I nearly burst into tears as I saw the piles of debris (household and tree) on the curb in front of every house. I couldn’t see much at our house because it was dark, so just pulled into a cleanish spot in the driveway and called it a night after hellos. The next day was Saturday, so we got to work. I targeted the driveway first because it needed to be functional and was the area we all looked at the most and nobody wanted to see reminders and evidence of devastation on a daily basis.
I’ll continue pages for each section we tackled. The back yard was next because it’s another part we view on a daily basis and I wanted to get my van back down by the river 😉