After Ian, Our Community Joined Forces For Good
I’ve lived in Lee County all my life, so I’m used to hurricane warnings. Every year, the weather forecasters show up on TV with dire news about a storm that’s about to clobber our beaches. They go on and on about the storm surge—it’s going to be 8 feet of water, or 10 feet, or 12!—and try to scare us with flood projections.
Fortunately, those warnings have never, ever come true. We were never hit with storm surge,even during Hurricane Charley or Irma, and those were the worst storm of my lifetime, until this September, and Hurricane Ian.
I’m sitting in my office right now, just a few weeks after the storm, and I still can’t believe how badly it messed us up. The hurricane snuck up on everyone, even the meteorologists who are paid to track storms professionally. I’ll never forget watching the news in the days leading up to impact. The cone was shifting all over the place; we had a new path for the hurricane every few days.
For the longest time, we all thought Ian would hit Tampa. Emergency crews, news crews, you name it—they were all in Tampa waiting for the worst. But even when Tampa was on everyone’s lips, I was getting Hurricane Charley vibes. I could sense that something serious was about to happen, and so could other longtime Floridians. Then, we discovered the truth late on Tuesday night: Ian was coming for us.
My family and I decided to ride out the storm, as did everyone else on the VanDyk Mortgage team. We screwed on our hurricane shutters and hunkered down. Fortunately, we made it through safely, and our house wasn’t severely damaged.Our damage was pretty standard, need a new roof, missing siding, screens and trees down everywhere.
Honestly, the mess at my place was nothing compared to what happened to my friends and neighbors. Dozens of them were flooded out. After the storm blew through, my wife, kids, and I stopped to help three or four friends deal with the wreckage over the next several days and weeks.
For hours, we hauled their entire lives to the curb. The despair truly hit me as I waded through trash that was once precious mementos. I held a wedding album water damaged beyond repair and saw a buddy’s model business ruined in his garage. The stuff my family and I hauled to the curb used to be family heirlooms, things my friends’ grandfathers saved from the great wars—now they’re wet, dirty slop.
The cleanup was tough, but my friends and neighbors were strong. Everyone who survived immediately started putting their lives back together, and the community rushed to fill the gaps. Churches handed out meals, volunteers showed up with supplies, and Governor DeSantis cleared the red tape so we could rebuild. The temporary bridge out to Pine Island went up in record time, and as I write this, the Sanibel Island Causeway is set to reopen by the end of October. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Looking back on the aftermath, I think if anyone is ever in doubt of how incredible and self-sufficient Americans are, they should look here at Lee County. Southwest Floridians are tough. We got through Charley or Irma, and together, we’ll get through Ian too.
I hope your family is safe and healthy. If there’s anything my team and I can do for you, don’t hesitate to call.
P.S. After the storm, I polled my friends and family about how they plan to update their hurricane preparations for next season. Turn to Page 4 for their tips!