Places After a Hurricane (Part 3)

By: Peggy Willms

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(4 mins)

Today I share part three of four in my post-Hurricane Ian saga. You can find the other blogs on my website at Today we talk about PLACES. What happens to places after a 155 m.p.h. hurricane rolls through your area?

The Thursday after Hurricane Ian slammed into Southwest Florida, my sister and her boyfriend were going to vacation here from Colorado. We had been planning it for months. She would be celebrating a milestone birthday (she is finally entering “my” decade). She has been to Florida a few times and had several places she wanted to visit with her honey.

The agenda was packed. We would sift the white sands of Sanibel Beaches, known worldwide for seashell lovers. We would eat at the Mucky Duck on Captiva. It would be a must to shop in many tourist-trinkety shops on Ft. Myer’s Beach as it is taking pictures sitting on the sand-blasted sea turtle statues. Lunch at Burt’s in Pine Island hit the list. I had a new surprise for her as well. The quaint little peninsula of Boca Grande. It is a local favorite and kind of a secret (shhh). There is nothing like a day in a glass-bottom kayak. Golf carts are the main transportation; cars are few and far between. Of course, we would also walk and ride bikes along the harbor in my town of Punta Gorda.

Sun, Sand, and Fun. But it all ended on September 28th. The vacation was over. The agenda shattered. She wouldn’t be coming, the places we would have visited would never be the same, and many geographical spots have now vanished.

Sanibel bridge was demolished, and Sanibel and Captiva are said to have been split into four mini-islands. Ft. Myers Beach is gone. And that is not an exaggeration. Every beach is either wiped away or twice the size because all beachfront houses were spun on their head. Pine Island and Matlacha bridge was destroyed, and that location is devastated.

The ground we walk on daily has changed. The landscape, such as trees and other foliage, has been ripped to shreds or whisked away altogether. Even mounds of dirt once used to silence the interstate traffic for new neighborhoods have washed away.

The landscape will never be the same, and the buildings won’t either. Many homes in Florida adorn bright colors such as yellow, teal, and orange, bringing a sense of fun and character to our neck of the woods. They have now splintered to the ground or are covered with mud.

Many historical buildings will be replaced with a modern flavor. Up-to-date hurricane-resistant materials will erase the imagery of the past. Investors are flying in faster than the returning snowbirds frantically returning to assess damages. Investors who, in some cases, will take advantage of those who have lost everything by taunting residents with low-balling price tags. Future vacation postcards will look different than they did a month ago.

On the other hand, light does rise from doom. Buildings and homes will be safer, meeting the newly required hurricane standards. Most power lines will be built underground, and cell towers will be updated and replaced. Roadways are being inspected and receiving the attention many have needed for decades.

I spent the Friday before the hurricane sitting on a white sandy beach in Boca Grande. That spot has washed away. The natural changes in places have also washed away one of my biggest excuses – putting off until tomorrow what I can do today. I will kayak tomorrow. I will bike tomorrow. I will go sea shelling tomorrow. I will sit on the water’s edge and listen to the consistent song and dance of waves tomorrow. Tomorrow will not come for many of the places I have put off over the last few years. Literally.

We cannot control Mother Nature’s strength or timeline. She took away many of the places I once took for granted. Those places I thought would wait for me when my schedule freed up, and I could find time to enjoy her beauty. Places change, as do animals, things, and people. But they really change after a natural disaster.

A month ago, after returning from my visit to Boca Grande, I wrote a blog called Advice from a Mermaid, of which I also have a painting of the saying in my office. It was inspired by my time staring at the waves that afternoon. I never knew that five-hour visit would be the last time I would ever spend in that exact location

Places change over time, though not typically in eight or nine hours. Please don’t put off enjoying your landscape or exploring somewhere new…before it is gone.