Rally The Troops; Help The Sunshine State


LaToya Jefferson, Editorial Writer

On Sept. 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall on the west coast of Florida as a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 100 to 150 mph. Hurricane Ian has devastated the southwestern shore area of Florida, from Tampa Bay all the way south to Marco Island with Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Naples being the hardest hit. It is estimated that the damage is close to $47 billion.
Homes, business, boats, vehicles, bridges and roads in Ian’s path have been decimated.
As of Oct. 7, there were over 1 million people remaining without power, although utility companies are working to restore customers. Some may remain without power for up to a month if not longer if their neighborhood is salvageable.
Following the days after the storm hit, the waters from the surge and overflowing lakes and rivers produced another tragedy. Wild animals, including snakes and alligators, infested those same waters, drifting or swimming through neighborhoods. Not only did these residents have to deal with the devastation of overwhelming losses, along with rescue missions to get those who were in low-lying areas into safety, but now they were also dealing with possible wildlife attacks that could be undetected in the flood waters.
Many residents were left with no choice but to wade through these flood waters not only to get to dry land but to help others with personal boats and canoes, even air mattresses. Talk about an “underlying issue.”
I have a few personal relationships with those who have been affected by the storm. Starting with my daughter’s grandparents, Jules and Veronica Bryan, transplants from Monmouth County to Englewood, Florida, (between Sarasota and Cape Coral right on the shore). Talking with both Jules and Veronica aka Ronnie, first to make sure they were O.K., second to see if their home had sustained any damage, they advised me that they had driven inland to Orlando before the storm hit, as a caution, and have been back to assess the damage. Their home was struck by a large tree and part of their roof is damaged. There was some flooding in the neighborhood, but no water entered their home.
They are grateful that the house is still standing, but the house is unhabitable for now. Still, insurance claims agents have already gotten the ball rolling to fix the damage. Besides, they have no power anyway. They are in the process of coming back to Jersey until the house is repaired.
I also spoke with another friend, Mary Jo Marchese whose brother Jason is also a transplant from Monmouth County New Jersey to Cape Coral Florida. At the time I am writing this, he has been without power for eight days. He has neighbors delivering food and water by boat to his house every two days. This has been traumatizing for him, his wife and their teenage son.
The one good point about this storm is the strength and resilience that southwestern Florida has shown. Neighbors helping neighbors, local law enforcement and community programs working together to help their fellow Floridians. The Florida National Guard and the National Guard are performing search and rescue missions. Communities are coming together to join resources for the help in rebuilding.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, President Biden visited Florida to see the damage firsthand and to meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis regarding the help that is so desperately needed. Biden has agreed to send disaster funds through FEMA to nine counties in Florida with a few other counties still assessing the damage. Some towns may take years to rebuild.
Although Floridians have seen their fair share of damaging hurricanes, Hurricane Ian was one of the strongest storms to hit on land in that state and one of the largest and most damaging to hit the American mainland. The death toll has surpassed 120 deaths in the path of Hurricane Ian including the Carolinas.
There are several different organizations that are helping donate resources to the badly hit state; these are the ones that I have researched. www.FloridaDisasterFund.org, www.nvoad.org and www.salvationarmy.org .
Please be sure to do your own research into who you wish to donate to for legitimacy and protection of your financial privacy. It’s time to rally the troops to help the Sunshine State.