As I write this, I don’t know if our Southwest Florida Fort Myers house will survive the hurricane. I don’t know if our 80-year-old friends and neighbors are going to be staying healthy during a hurricane. They decided to stay put. Will they be able to manage without power, a foregone conclusion that the winds and trees will knock out power? I don’t know if our roof and their roofs will stay intact. I don’t know if the lake behind our house will fill and flood our house.
Demographics of Southwest Florida
Florida has a lot of elderly people, and a high concentration of them in Fort Myers, Naples and other southwestern counties. Frail elderly people have trouble with normal conditions much less loss of power and air conditioning. And the storm surges frankly terrify me. The vast majority of homes in Southwest Florida have one story. With storm surges predicted for the coastal areas of 10-15 feet, there is no escape, no second story to go to.
Florida is flat. Very flat. No hills to act as a barrier. And the Gulf nearby to fuel a hurricane.
Recent Experience with Hurricanes
Quite honestly, I never took the time to assemble a survival kit for staying healthy during a hurricane. Massive denial? I should know better.
I’ve lived through many hurricanes. In one, the basement of my legal nurse consulting business flooded. We later learned our office condo neighbor had a broken sump pump so the water flooded from his basement into ours. Don’t think solid concrete walls keep out water.
You know those styrofoam peanuts used for packing? We had 2 hampers full of them. The water lifted up the hampers, knocked them over and spilled what seemed like thousands of peanuts all over the floor. We were peeling dried peanuts off of the floor for weeks.
Warned by my son to head home early because of the flooding, I found my usual route was blocked by a fallen tree and the policeman turning traffic away could not give me another suggestion as to how to get home. I wandered through back roads, in a car without a GPS, until I came to a bridge that was covered with water. A pick up truck driver coming in the opposite direction advised me I could safely cross it. Holding my breath, I drove through the stream rushing over the top of the bridge. I never again want to drive through a stream.
Superstorm Sandy knocked out power in our area of NJ for 8 days. We ran our generator for 4 days to power our refrigerator, computers, microwave and a few lights. Gas was hardly to be found. We invited our neighbors for a meal early in the power outage and invited them to use our shower while we still had hot water left in the tank.
My husband does not have the temperament for roughing it so after 4 days we found a hotel room in Pennsylvania and gave our generator to our neighbors to use until we came back. Another 4 days later, we got the welcome call that the power was back. Our NJ property had minimal damage and we were so glad to be able to return home.
Southwestern Florida has not experienced a hurricane for many years, certainly as long as we have owned our house (6 years). It is easy to minimize the risk, but that is deadly.