Staying Home With Hurricane Ian and Avoiding the Dreaded Storm Surge

Where do you go in Florida when a hurricane is about to strike? Many will say to evacuate. But to where if you are not affluent and can take a short vacation to Jackson Hole? Certainly, leaving very early and going far north to New York or Chicago is best. My Aunt Justine did that last week when she left the state—smart woman.

My first thoughts as I woke up this morning were for friends riding out the storm. My older neighbors in my condominium were top of my mind, along with Merlin Law Group attorney Ed Eshoo and his wife, Libby. So was a crazy storm chasing meteorologist Derik Kline.

Leon Mezrah is the President of my 14-member Garrison Cove Condominium Association. Over the weekend, I argued with him to stay in Rhode Island with friends and not come to Tampa. He felt duty-bound and better if he were to return. Misery loves company, so he brought his wife, Diane, with him.

I could sense the panic and fear with Diane yesterday. I reassured her about the storm passing to the south and east of us and that we are on the safe side of the storm. I explained how the building will shake later today and how the loud gusts of wind will come and then go. I also told them they are welcome and should come up to our unit if they felt insecure because I have an electric power generator and a satellite phone if it gets worse. My unit is 100 feet above the water, and no storm surge is going to get us.

Ed and Libby Eshoo are from Chicago. There is not a better and more experienced property insurance lawyer in Chicago than Ed Eshoo. In an age of legal advertising fakers on the internet, colleagues recognize Ed Eshoo as a Contender and not a Pretender.

Ed and Libby bought a second residence on Clearwater Beach to escape the harsh Chicago winters and watch some great football in Tampa. After Sunday’s game in Tampa, they planned to evacuate to Chicago. Unfortunately, their plane trip was canceled. Staying on Clearwater Beach is not where you want to be during a hurricane because storm surge is a real danger. So where did they evacuate to?

Estero is a small town south of Ft. Myers. If Hurricane Ian were to stick to its original course and slam into Tampa, Estero would be a safe place to go. Ed Eshoo must be a hurricane magnet. As he was traveling south to stay with relatives in Estero, Hurricane Ian’s path kept moving south, tracking Ed. As I write this, I feel for Ed and Libby because they are to the east of the eyewall and will experience much stronger winds than those of us in the Tampa Bay region. The lesson is that in Florida, just because you evacuate does not mean the place you went to is better than the place where you came from. Still, they did the right thing to get off the beach and remove themselves from the storm surge threat.

A few of us do some really crazy things for a living. I have written about Derik Kline in What Is It Like To Be In The Eyewall of a Hurricane? The photo above is of some friends in front of Derik’s storm tracker truck. Derik and his crew left Tampa at 4 am this morning and are somewhere around Port Charlotte, hoping to be in the middle of the eyewall.

Storm surge is the number one cause of death from Hurricanes. It is not a joking matter. I wrote about one example of dear friends and clients in Pay Up!:

Ray and Ann Stieffel decided to ride out that storm. They, and many of their neighbors, remembered when the storm surge waters stopped during Hurricane Camille. The Stieffels judged their safety based upon what they thought was the ultimate hurricane. These memories proved deadly for many others, and the Stieffels were lucky to escape.

At the Stieffel home, the water kept rising and entering the house. Ray and Ann moved up into the attic. When water started filling the attic, they were trapped. With nowhere to go, they busted through the attic vent and clawed their way out of the house. The water was up to the roof. They held on to tree branches to keep from being washed away, bobbing up and down in the floodwaters until the storm surge receded. By the time they could stand without being swept away, the water had washed the clothes off their backs and their house had been washed away. They had to go into their neighbors’ homes to scavenge for clothes. They were lucky to be alive, but their lives were the only thing that had been spared. Everything they owned was gone.

Coming back from this type of loss is not easy. Ann and Ray, though past retirement age, were still working. Losing your home and everything else always takes a heavy toll. A home is your castle, and at that age starting from scratch can be daunting, if not impossible.

I appreciate all the kind words, prayers, and thoughts from so many as we go through this. Riding out Hurricane Ian is going to be a lot easier for me than for some others who are truly in harm’s way, and for those who are first responders poised to help in the aftermath.

Thought For The Day

It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.
—Alan Shepard

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