The lessons learned from September’s Hurricane Irma remain fresh in the mind of families, businesses, and organizations of all sizes and levels in Southwest Florida as this year’s hurricane season begins.
Until Irma, no storm had impacted Southwest Florida since 2005’s Hurricane Wilma – a lifetime ago with how quickly the region has grown with new residents and construction.
That decade plus led to many nasty surprises for business owners, such as Keith Ruebeling, owner and president of Larue Pest Management. Ruebeling lost his building to Irma.
“It was our 40th year of business and we had 40 years’ worth of files and financial documents lost,” Ruebeling said while at an event held by the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
Rubeling said that the biggest lessons he learned from Irma were to get flood insurance – even if you don’t think it will happen to you – and said that in the firm’s new headquarters, they’ve taken all of their important items off the floor, just to be sure.
Now nearly nine months later, others aren’t as lucky as Ruebeling to rebuild. Some areas in the hardest hit parts of Everglades City, for instance, aren’t fully hooked back into the grid, said Karen Ryan, the head of public relations for the Lee County Electric Cooperative.
LCEC provides power to Marco Island, Immokalee, and Everglades City, along with Cape Coral and most of Lehigh Acres in Lee. Ryan said that while they managed to restore power to 85 percent of the 147,000 customers of their who lost it within three days, that shouldn’t stop anyone from preparing for the worst.
“Have a plan for your businesses, homes, and families,” Ryan said.
And it’s not just the locals that need a plan, or need to be planned for, either, as Will Prather, owner of the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre learned.
Prather, who in the aftermath of the storm opened his theatre’s doors to let in people seeking meals or a place to get out of the brutal September sun, had to come up with a plan to get the actors performing at his theatre for scheduled shows out of the area ahead of the storm.
“A lot of these actors are from all over the country, and they were pretty freaked out,” Prather said.
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