Friday, April 16, 2021

Reflections After the Storm




Now that Hurricane Irma has passed and islanders are busy putting their lives back together and the island is working hard at returning to normal, I sat back this morning and had coffee while watching the boat traffic pass by. Islanders would seek a little decompression from the stress of the storm that only two weekends ago threatened to turn their lives upside down.

Just a few “after-thoughts” regarding the storm and events surrounding it: • Those poles we’ve seen for years leaning in the wetlands next to S.R. 951 as we have driven to the island never did look that strong and most would scratch their heads wondering why they hadn’t been replaced or reinforced. They unfortunately carried the power to our neighbors on Isles of Capri and Irma confirmed our greatest fears; they weren’t going to last. • Authorities didn’t want to prevent islanders from returning to their homes, they merely wanted to have them return when it was safe. That simply means when they’ve cleared the roadways and insured no threat was present from electrocution by downed power lines, which there was. The fact that traffic going to the island was opened by 10:30 AM the morning after the storm was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the city staff and LCEC. • Wasn’t it wonderful that the network news didn’t get to capture footage of islanders smashing windows and looting storefronts. Seems islanders are a bit more civilized and respectful of the community they live in. • I was saddened to see the steeple at the

United Church of Marco Island had fallen, but had my spirits lifted to know their parishioners hadn’t let that deter them from worship. • Smiled at the thought that Fire Rescue

Chief Mike Murphy had coined the phrase, “Hurricane Andrew on Steroids,” as he would describe the intensity of the approaching storm for islanders.

His frank portrayal of the storm and the warnings given by Governor Scott during the week may have saved lives. • I was honored to accompany the Governor, his staff and staff from the city when he visited the island one week after the storm. I was struck by the humility and grounded nature of Governor Scott as he attended services at the Marco Island

Family Church. He would meet with residents and toured the island with Police Chief Al Schettino to view damage, along with his wife Ann. His calm demeanor and unpretentious nature provided those that met him a different perspective of the character of the man who is often portrayed in less than flattering terms by the media. • Councilman Bob Brown accompanied

U.S. Congressman Rooney when the

Marco Police Department gave the freshman congressman a waterfront tour of the island to view damage after the typical photo op with local officials.

Brown came away with a similar characterization of Rooney, after spending an hour with him on a personal basis as we compared notes one day. Both these public servants seem to have the people’s best interest front and center as we seek to recover from the effects of the storm. • On a lighter note, it seems we have all become addicted to the internet, as one of the major complaints post storm dealt with the outages from two of the major providers of that service. It seems we may indeed have an older and more

“hip” generation here on the island than first believed. • A big round of applause goes out to the utility workers who came from all over the nation to aid Florida Power and

Light and LCEC as they worked around the clock to reconfigure the distribution lines that provide our electrical services.

One of those wonderful men was killed in

Broward County restoring power there, while another was seriously injured during their efforts to restore power. • One of the largest tributes to the character of the place we call home lies in the rise of the group “Marco Patriots,” a loosely knit group of individuals that banded together to put the old Rotary slogan, “Service Above Self,” into action. They came together to do wellness checks, take trees off buildings, provide water to those in need, provide needed household necessities, check on vacant homes and even turn off broken waterlines. They did a wonderful job for the island and have expanded into Isles of

Capri, Goodland, and Everglades City and now are providing much needed materials to a badly damaged Puerto Rico. • Lastly, a big shout out to our own city staff, who worked diligently prior to the storm, during the storm and in the many days since the sun came up on our paradise on that Monday morning after the storm. Interim City Manager Gil Polanco, Fire Rescue Chief Mike Murphy and Police Chief Al Schettino and all the other department heads deserve great praise for their teamwork and dedication to our residents and businesses.

Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced awardwinning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at

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