COOPER CITY, Fla. — The eye of Irma passed over Charles Ewing’s home in Naples, but he considers himself lucky.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he said. “There was so much rain, I couldn’t see anything through the window.”
Monday morning, Ewing, who moved with his wife, Sharon, from Clarence last summer, assessed the damage. The street was flooded, and the pond in his backyard was overflowing and creeping toward the house. He’s been without power since noon Sunday. The trees nearby are nearly bare, and his neighbor’s tree fell, blocking Ewing's driveway.
“It’s fine — I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “If the worst case is that I can’t get out, and I don’t have electricity, then I’m doing pretty good. I’m alive, and my house is in good shape.”
Irma made a last-minute shift east, pummeling Southwest Florida cities such as Naples and Marco Island. Tampa Bay residents, who originally were in the hurricane’s direct path, were relieved to have been spared from the storm's worst.
“Not much of a story here,” Julie Nedelko, of the Odessa neighborhood of Tampa, wrote in a text message on Monday morning. “The storm passed by loudly but without incident.”
The Lockport native said she didn’t even lose power.
“I have two other properties to check,” she said, “but people in this part of Tampa seem to be doing well.”
In Tarpon Springs, a city on central Florida’s Gulf Coast, Peter Griffin was prepared for the worst. Griffin, originally from North Buffalo, lives about a 550-yard walk from the beach, and he said he filled roughly 100 Hefty bags with sand as a precaution against flooding. Monday morning, the screens around his lanai were gone, and his block was without power. He’s powering his home with a generator.
“There were a couple moments when my stomach dropped,” he said of the storm Sunday evening. “We were suppose to get traumatized. But we got away with it. The miracle of Tampa Bay.”
He grew up boating in Buffalo and owns two boats, which he prepared with canned food and paddles with the intention of making rescues if necessary Monday.
“That’s just me,” he said. “Fortunately we didn’t have to [do that]. But I was ready.”
Nice weather on Monday
The weather is nice outside, Nedelko mentioned Monday morning.
That’s what I remember most about Hurricane Wilma in 2005. I was about 10, and we were without power — and to the kids’ excitement, off from school — for a few days. It was sunny with a breeze, ideal for bike riding and rollerblading through the empty streets.
After Irma, it feels like that again, but hotter and with more debris.
I caught word that downtown Fort Lauderdale was completely flooded, despite not getting the brunt of the storm, most likely from a storm surge. In my neighborhood in Cooper City, about 30 minutes south, people are raking leaves, sawing falling tree trunks and putting out overflowing garbage bags of branches. In my backyard, the pool is an unsavory green color and a ficus hedge has fallen.
My family woke up in a good spirits to a cool, lit-up house — the power was back. The cable and internet remained obstinate, so I drove to my grandmother’s apartment in Pembroke Pines, a neighboring city in Broward County, to take advantage of her Wi-Fi.
The 15-minute journey was a game of courtesy and hesitation. Most of the streetlights were out, with police officers directing traffic at only the largest intersections. Branches littered the sidewalks and trees were split in half.
The tree that stood tall by my family's front door, “the tree of life,” as we’ve lovingly called it since 2004, is on the ground, having fallen just inches away from my father’s black Hyundai Sonata.
We loved that tree, but we are thankful. Irma’s threat could’ve been much worse, and our thoughts are with those who fared worse.
Alyssa Fisher is a former intern at The Buffalo News. She is now an assistant editor at Lifestyle Media Group in Fort Lauderdale.