An Open Letter to Southwest Florida Visitors After Hurricane Ian

An Open Letter to Southwest Florida Visitors After Hurricane Ian

My mother is headed south soon to get out of the cold and she asked me what was open in Naples, Florida. “Mom, don’t expect things to be normal. Things are not normal here.” She was exasperated. She wanted to know if her favorite Persian restaurant was open. What about the French one?

Hurricane Ian after the storm

“Mom, the Persian one has all of their walls ripped out and flooring removed. Yes, the French one is open. Please understand that some restaurants have different hours now, some have a reduced menu. You’re going to have to be patient. Many people here have lost everything in their homes, like us, and it’s going to take time to get back to normal.”

Now picture tens of thousands of my Moms headed South soon, ready to dine out, shop, go to the beach, plays, art shows, concerts and golf – full of questions and expectations.

Hurricane Ian after the storm

Although this area needs money and business dollars to rebuild, Southwest Florida lacks the capacity to handle the influx of winter visitors. Last year (pre-Hurricane Ian), many businesses experienced labor shortages and operated at max capacity and were stretched thin. Due to the exorbitant monthly rental prices, many employees who would typically work service jobs have had to move north to Fort Myers or south of Naples. Sadly, hurricane Ian decimated Fort Myers and areas south of Naples had severe flooding.

Hurricane Ian after the storm

We need patience.

Now that many employees are essentially homeless, what will happen during the tourist season? Sure, the fancy restaurant on 5th may open soon, but the labor shortages are now exacerbated.

Some disadvantaged families that have lost everything have moved in with relatives. 10-15+ people are crammed in one little house. These families are trying to make it work and they live in the most trying of conditions. 

We need patience.

After driving over to the beach area yesterday I realized that many wintering tourists will be receiving a notice soon that their rental is no longer available as it simply washed away or had catastrophic flood damage. While some will hurry to make repairs before the season, others simply won’t be able to afford it. Some Realtors are going door to door making offers of pennies on the dollar. Others are canvassing by phone, we got one text ourselves and my husband  told the agent to go to hell. This is not the time to prey on stressed out families.

We need patience.

The whisper talk among insurance agents is that insurance companies will be going out of business after Ian. Many already went belly up (like ours) before hurricane season, so this ‘500 year storm’ will push the rest over the edge. This will financially challenge countless people who thought they had security. 

Contractors already know the precarious insurance situation and are more likely to work with the person paying cash versus waiting on an insurance payment. Many homeowners will be forced to wait to make repairs as they get delayed payments, or possibly no payments.

We need patience.

FEMA has been helpful for Florida residents (2nd home owners do not qualify) and the cleanup efforts are in full swing. But not everyone qualifies for FEMA and for some, even if they qualify for rental assistance, it’s extremely challenging to find a new rental that’s not going to be offered to a vacation renter.

Watch the claw trucks pick up debris:

If you are a visitor coming in from out of town, here’s what you will see right now in October, 2022. The lush green trees and foliage are now brown from saltwater. Many of us are worried if the oak trees will die. There are giant piles of debris on the sides of the road. Although they have giant claw trucks picking up piles everyday, the amount is unfathomable. People’s lives are out on the street. Furniture, pictures, bedding, cabinets, bathrooms, battered cars, building materials, etc.

Many small mom & pop retailers lost everything and did not have insurance. You will not see their cute stores open again.

Some plays and music performances are being canceled because the talent has lost everything.

The restaurants that are open are already jam-packed and waits will be long.

The beaches are decimated. Boardwalks are gone, the sea grape barrier and seagrass are gone. Many beachfront homes had severe damage and it’s a blur between their property and the sand. Thankfully the pretty seashells are still scattered across the battered beach as if nothing ever happened. 

It’s going to take years for Naples to heal and rebuild.  So please come to SW Florida, but just know that for now the landscape is not what you remember. Be kind, tip well and use local small businesses when possible. We will rebuild, but SW Florida needs time and patience from all. 


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Southwest Florida Visitors After Hurricane Ian”

  • Very well said the Naples crew is already out to dinner like nothing happened hotels are full of party people. 2 weeks ago while people were partying at Cavo lounge two men were shot during s fight that broke out at the club. It’s insane those hotels could house homeless. Locals. Very sad situation.

    • Thanks for your comment – I just now saw it. I see that Florida is delaying FEMA trailers, yet there are over 27000 requests for housing. I hope they figure something out soon. There are many disadvantaged living in moldy homes now & trying to work daily to keep it together.

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