It's been four days since Hurricane Ian departed our area of Florida and we are profoundly grateful to still be here. We watched the progress of Hurricane Ian and knew after it crossed Cuba that our area, near Daytona Beach Shores, was going to be in it's direct path after landfall.
Hurricane Ian Experience in Daytona Beach Shores
Having been through Hurricane Irma in 2017 near Bradenton we knew what to do. We paid attention to Tropical Tidbits and Mike's Weather Page for storm forecasting. We live 6 miles inland from the beach, but we bought bottled water, canned goods, pasta and cereal. A curfew for our area went into effect. We filled the bathtub with water for toilet flushing. We prepared our home by installing metal shutters over our windows, bracing the garage and stacking sandbags at the front door. What we didn't expect were the 82-90 mph winds that battered our home from 3 pm Wednesday for over 24 hours. Traveling at barely 8 mph, Hurricane Ian parked over our coastal area delivering up to 20 inches of rain in some areas. At 3 am, unable to sleep (who could?), the wind sounded like a freight train. We have a cement block home located inland, but our fear of a tornado and losing the roof was real. The rain came over the house like waves on a fishing boat.
At about 4 am, we noticed a leak in the garage. The water was steady but not critical. We placed a bucket underneath the dripping and hoped for the best. It was terrifying, but we came through it. It wasn't until the next day that we started to see images on our phones about Southwest Florida. We were lucky! Later, we walked through the neighborhood to see how others had fared. Trees down and missing roof shingles were everywhere. Some streets were flooded. There was no power or internet service. However, we had our homes and our lives!
By Friday, most neighbors were out cleaning up and the water was receding. We could hear the sound of chain saws and generators. The city lifted the curfew and we drove around to charge our mobile phones. We could not believe what we saw at our local outdoor mall: the Chuck E. Cheese had collapsed. Thank goodness no one was in the building at the time.
On Saturday, we decided it was time to see what had happened at our local beach. The causeway bridge had re-opened. From a distance, things looked normal but we had heard that the Sunglow Pier had sustained great damage. In fact, some of Crabby Joe's restaurant had washed away. This local, iconic pier lost more than 200 ft due to Hurricane Ian. It's been there since 1960. We've featured it in many of our photographs and videos. We know they will rebuild it but people have lost their jobs. The restaurant owner started a fundraiser to assist staff who have lost their jobs, since it will take months to rebuild. The details are here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/crabby-joes-staff-relief.
The beach access points were all blocked off as expected, but we were able to stop at a beach parking lot in Wilbur-By-The-Sea near Daytona Beach Shores. The damage to the beach access driveway was extreme with concrete and re-bar exposed. Oceanfront homes suffered roof damage. Some even lost their yards to the storm's waves. This is why evacuations are so important.
Still, it is much worse in Southwest Florida. Fort Myers and Naples have taken a direct hit. Lovely Sanibel Island is unreachable right now (a temporary bridge to replace the causeway is expected to be finished by the end of October). Sarasota was affected, although conditions there are improving as of this post publishing date. Some parts of Orlando are dealing with rising rivers as we speak. Unlike many in these areas, we got power back within 48 hours. The internet service took a bit longer.
Can You Still Vacation in Florida?
Some areas of Florida were spared or had little damage. St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Anna Maria Island are opening to visitors. Siesta Key took a beating but only experienced power outages and minor flooding. Beach access to New Smyrna Beach is open. Check with your hotel (call them) before booking any Florida vacation. Destin and Navarre Beach were out of the storm's cone. Tampa and Orlando airports have re-opened in the last 24 hours. Several popular attractions, like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, have reopened to guests. Some cruises have been affected so check how it may affect your booking, if you have a cruise vacation coming up. We don't think it will take too long for the Daytona Beach area to recover, so please put it, and beautiful Ponce Inlet, on your itinerary in the future.
For another hurricane update blog post click here. It contains links to official sources of information. Always consult with officials before booking your travel.
Ways to Help Florida Victims of Hurricane Ian
The Florida Disaster Fund
This is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. It partners with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations. Click here for more information and to donate.
American Red Cross
American Red Cross volunteers from across the country are working around the clock in Florida to provide food, shelter and comfort for people facing the heartbreaking devastation left behind by Hurricane Ian. They also need blood. Click here for more information and to donate.
United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties FL
The United Way is a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people in our community. They are on the ground with hurricane relief. Click here to learn more and donate.
ASPCA Disaster Response Team
The ASPCA disaster response team continues to assist Lee County Animal Services, working closely with response partners to conduct assessments, distribute pet food and supplies, and respond to requests for assistance alongside local animal control officers. Donate using this link.
Humane Society Naples
This Naples, FL organization is working to get animals out of harm's way, and then will commence the work of putting animals up for adoption. Click here for more information and to donate.
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.