NFM residents grateful Irma impact less than projected
September 12, 2017


Hurricane Irma did less damage than projected but still managed to do its share in North Fort Myers, with downed trees, nearly everyone without power, and the occasional carport being torn off the side of mobile homes.

But in the end, everyone was able to breathe a sigh of relief, as Irma weakened much faster than anticipated as it came on land. Instead of a Category 4 storm, it arrived as a Category 2, sparing the area most of the projected wind and storm surge impact.

The result was stores and restaurants still closed as of Tuesday, people at home cleaning up the mess, and if you needed gas, long, long wait times at the pumps.

Meanwhile, numerous traffic lights remained out, meaning that major intersections such as at North Cleveland Avenue and Tamiami Trail became four-way stops to let vehicles through.

Streets were passable with some exceptions, including the side road along Merchant Crossing, where a downed tree blocked one lane.

In the neighborhoods where damage was most expected, there was surprisingly little. A small handful of homes has carports ripped away, but other than siding damage and downed trees, most mobile homes emerged relatively unscathed.

Mary Chadderdon, of Royal Coach Estates, was among less lucky ones.

She and her son cleaned up the mess left from her torn-up carport Tuesday night, happy, though, that the rest of the house, built in 1971, sustained little additional damage.

Through it, she retained her sense of humor.

"It could have been a whole lot worse. We lost the carport and the roof that goes back to the shed, and the roof came up a little on the side, but we're very thankful," Chadderdon said, who hunkered down at her sister's workplace. "I've been here since 1964 and I would never stay in a mobile home in a hurricane."

Chadderdon, who got her utilities back Monday, said the only bad thing is that it didn't clear out her husband's stuff off the porch and that it killed her palm tree.

"I hated that tree. I was thrilled to see it fall down," Chadderdon said.

At Suncoast Estates, it was much the same: many downed trees but no downed homes.

Matthew Prather and his family stayed at his mom's house and came home to see a fallen tree over his bedroom, alongside the house and in the backyard and into his neighbor's gate. Remarkably, there was little serious damage to the home.

"Considering what they said it was going to be, it wasn't a 4 but a 2. So we were very fortunate," Prather said.

Gene Carpenter, who lives near the Suncoast Community Center and is a member of the Community Response Team, said his unit wasn't deployed, since much of the damage was superficial.

"We have a lot of tree damage and calls for trees on houses. But we were much more fortunate than the Keys," Carpenter said. "We were expecting them to be torn apart like Charley tore apart the homes in Punta Gorda. Fortunately, it weakened enough where it didn't cause as much damage."

Businesses were also hit hard. With the exception of Winn Dixie, all other stores were closed at Weaver's Corner Shopping Center Tuesday. At Merchant Crossing, only the stores closest to Pine island Road had power.

Dollar General was open, while Beall's was still closed, but prepared to reopen on Wednesday. Heavenly Pizza opened Tuesday just as power was restored. They had a limited menu with reduced prices, but it was also cash only, as the lines for their credit system were still down.

At Walmart early Tuesday, there was a rare sight, an empty parking lot. In that plaza, all the action was happening at Sonic, where cars lined up around the corner to pick up lunch. The taco place was also open, with someone at the entrance holding a sign to indicate they were serving.

But those lines paled in comparison to the ones cars waited in for gas at the Mobil station on the corner of 41 and Pine Island Road, where the line went all the way to the Race Trac station, which was closed, reminiscent of the gas lines in the 1970s during the gas shortages.

Sally Bourff said she couldn't remember those days, but she could remember Hurricane Wilma in 2005, having to do the same thing.

"We've been here a little over an hour. I think we'll be OK. We need gas for our generator at the house. We're running out. We went through 30 gallons on Sunday and Monday," Bourff said. "We had a little bit of this and that, but it could have been a lot worse."

The North Fort Myers Civic Association is putting together a litter patrol to help clean up North Fort Myers hurricane debris.

To sign up contact Mike Land, at 823-3631.


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