Article Presented By Rathkamp Financial
(Mike Smith reporting from Southwest Florida) – My travels have taken me through some areas that have been devastated by Hurricane Ian, which smashed into Southwest Florida on September 23, 2022.
To date, the Category 4 storm has claimed more than 110 lives and caused an estimated $67 billion in damage. When it made landfall in the Fort Myers Beach area, storm winds were clocked at near 150 miles per hour and had a storm surge that pushed water into the beach front city at more than 13.23 feet. That is a level that translated to more than nine feet of ocean water above normally dry ground in buildings that sit a few feet above sea level.
Many times throughout my life, I have seen images of hurricane, tornado and or earthquake damage through the eyes of other reporters. But this was the first time I had witnessed the recent aftermath in-person.
I have traveled through this area several times in recent years and to see the damage first-hand, two months after it occurred, is difficult to comprehend what it looked like immediately after it occurred. While Fort Myers Beach was ground-zero for Hurricane Ian, nearby Sanibel Island and Captiva were hit even worse. They have been so badly damaged, that two months later, the only people that can access those areas are those with “hurricane passes”- (emergency workers or are owners taking care of what is left of their properties.)
In various communities impacted by the storm, there are piles of rubble that stretch as tall as 10 feet high, miles along the roads, waiting for crews to come along to remove it to a landfill.
The site of such destruction and the thoughts of those who lost property, and possibly even loved ones, can bring tears to your eyes. But moments later, you are feeling inspiration in watching those who are working to clean up the damage and try to rebuild homes and what used to be a popular vacation and retirement location for thousands of families- including many from Ohio.
In my brief drive through the area, I saw scores of FEMA, Red Cross, faith-based groups and professional contractors who are working to remediate the disaster area. I saw food trucks feeding the crews of workers, painted signs posted by residents thanking first responders and crews of workers trying to restore their community.
Seeing this brings appreciation for the blessings of life, realizing that at any moment, it can all come crumbling down upon us.
As it is with many disasters, we are moved with compassion that drives us to want to help with donations to Red Cross or maybe even join volunteer crews that are working those sites. But months later, the news coverage turns elsewhere and we often forget those who are still struggling to rebound.
While the storm-damaged areas of Florida are receiving federal and state disaster aid, there is still so much more these funds will never cover. Not every person that lived or still lives in places like Fort Myers Beach or Sanibel are wealthy people. I have met many of these people over the years and they are middle class folks, just trying to live life like the rest of us in our home communities.
Seeing Fort Myers Beach reminds me there are many people who still need our prayers, along with other help. There are many ways we can help through volunteer disaster assistance, and sending donations to faith-based groups like Samaritans Purse or to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, who have been on the scene since the storm and say they will remain there for many months to come.