As old and ancient as our islands are, modern Marco, Goodland and Isles of Capri, are comprised of new-age pilgrims, and not the indigenous peoples from thousands of years ago. The Collier family arrived from Tennessee looking to start a new life, and when our founding family arrived on a sixty-foot sailboat, they were indeed strangers in a strange land.
For Marco’s first family, everything was new and different from their native Tennessee. The only people the Colliers came to know were also fellow travelers from distant lands who came to settle and share an unexplored lifestyle. This island tradition became a normal transition nurtured by the modern development of Marco Island and the Mackle brother’s Deltona Corporation.
Just as when the Colliers arrived, the Mackles began building, new businesses thrived, and more pilgrims begin to settle as the infrastructure of Modern Marco began to take hold.
What the first settlers shared with the second generation of newcomers is the same today as it was in the 1800s. For those in our time who travel over the bridge, fall in love, and decide to become islanders, questions about the new, different, and unknown can only be answered by those that came before us.
For the Marco Beach Boys and Girls, the situation has also been the same. Especially when late September arrives, tropical storms are in the forecast, and newcomers begin hearing hurricane stories from days gone by.
“When the Gulf temperature climbs over 90 degrees,” one of the older marina crew always explained, “we are going to have a hurricane! All that heat and energy have to go somewhere.”
Other veteran islanders will recall stories from the infamous hurricanes of yesteryear. “During the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, there was a rescue train sent into the Florida Keys that was blown off the tracks. The wind was 200 miles-per-hour and the storm, when it hit, washed away everyone in the path. Everything and everyone!”
Another story from Hurricane Donna claims some of the cars in Collier County were so sandblasted that all the paint was stripped away on the exposed vehicles.
Of course, as human nature decrees, older islanders will often find entertainment in unleashing hurricane stories, just to watch the reactions of new–age islanders who have yet to experience the eye of a hurricane or even the fringe of a tropical storm.
This effect of course, has been magnified a thousand-fold by islanders watching 24-hour news television. During the days before networks began forecasting fear and worry on TV, the Marco Beach Boys have always relied on the training and common sense of the islanders that have weathered storms before.
With a red sky at sunset, fair-weather clouds and high barometric pressure, experienced islanders are content to go about their business. However, when hurricane watches and warnings are posted by the National Weather Service, there are some storm basics, good examples, and proven training that everyone should consider. When living in a maritime environment with the Gulf of Mexico embracing our lifestyle, what better advice can islanders receive other than the standard operating procedures of the US Navy or Coast Guard.
When a hurricane approaches and threatens a port, naval commanders and shipping agents order “All ships to sea!” because a ship at sea can maneuver away from a storm and a prepared vessel is always ready for anything within a few hours’ notice.
Imagine your home, boat, or apartment, as your ship on a stormy sea. Are there items in the yard, pool deck, or patio that go flying? Is there a table with an umbrella, lightweight patio furniture, or unsecured trash containers waiting for the wind? Are your hatches secure—do all windows and doors close and seal properly? Are there palms heavy with coconuts that could become flying cannonballs in hurricane-force winds?
Even with weak tropical storms, there can be power outages. Is there a freezer full of fish, chicken, or steaks? Are there two full containers of propane for the grill?
On a ship, schedules are always maintained, provisions and perishables consumed in the order least likely to spoil, but above all, the galley must be well stocked and the sailors fed on time. A hungry and frustrated crew will be full of complaints and grumble about everything. Low blood sugar leads to moodiness and bad morale, but a crew that has meals on schedule and is well fed can ride out any contingency with good humor and high spirits.
Ships refuel every time they reach a port, and airplanes every time they land. Driving around this time of year with anything under three–quarters of a tank is like a drunken sailor wandering the streets of a spooky foreign port. Anything could happen, but probably nothing good. A full tank of gas is just one less thing to worry about—especially when storm warnings are up and there are long lines at the pumps.
Every good skipper will realize that fresh, clean, water is a precious commodity. The human body must be well hydrated and a good ship’s doctor will steer a crew away from soft drinks and back on course to what every sailor needs most: pure water. Toilets will not flush without water in the tank, and a bathtub filled with water before a storm is nothing that will be wasted.
During a maritime crisis anywhere, naval commanders have learned to delegate responsibility. On a well-run ship, the crew is busy, entertained, or hard at work. A morale officer is critical, recreation is mandatory, and every sailor’s good morale is high on the list of top priorities. There can be nothing worse than crewmembers without inspired direction. Without good leadership, team members always grumble, complain, criticize, and contemplate mutiny.
If the City of Marco Island decides to order a mandatory evacuation, then go! The decision to evacuate does not come lightly, and any commander who fails to follow advice from a sound admiralty is on a cruise to catastrophe.
A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane conditions are possible in a specified area.
A Hurricane Warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified area.
Whenever asking islanders who stayed in their homes during a major hurricane, the question and the answer are always the same: “Would you do it again?”
The answer is “No!”
Tom Williams is a Marco Islander. He is the author of two books. “Lost and Found” and “Surrounded by Thunder – The Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocket Men.” Both books are available on Kindle and Nook.