How We Handled Hurricane Irma

I’ll start by saying we dodged a big one with Hurricane Irma on Sanibel and Captiva Islands! Thankfully, our barrier islands suffered minimum damage compared to what forecaster’s originally expected.

Hurricane Irma

The All-Important Hurricane Plan

From Hurricane Irma, we learned the importance of having a hurricane plan in place, and moving swiftly to kick that plan into action. We had been watching the storm develop for a few days as meteorologists determined it’s exact path. As soon as it looked like the storm (which was wider than the entire state of Florida!) would be hitting the peninsula, we took action.

Step 1: Book Hotel Rooms

Jim immediately called and booked two pet-friendly hotel locations for our family. One just off I-75 in Fort Myers, and another further north in Athens, GA.

In the past, Jim and I have stayed to “ride out” a hurricane here in South Florida. However, we have four kids now, and the size of the storm left no question as to whether or not we should evacuate for the safety of our family.

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Step 2: Inform Others of Your Plan

We acted quickly to inform our kids of the plan, something I suggest you talk to your kids about ahead of time in order to minimize the chaos of an already stressful situation. I explained to them the seriousness of the storm, and told them to pack their valuables and clothes for at least two weeks.

Step 3: Prep Your Homes and Offices

Jim went to the office to chat with our staff about their plans, board up the windows with hurricane shutters, and secure what we could within the office. It was our first time putting up the metal shutters on the office, so there was a slight learning curve that occurred. It wasn’t a major cost of time, but I do suggest taking a look at your shutters ahead of time, since every second of your time is precious when evacuating the island.

Hurricane Irma

Step 4: Gather Your Important Docs and Belongings

We also suggest keeping your hurricane re-entry pass up to date, so that when a storm occurs, you do not have to wait in line with the other procrastinators in order to update your passes. We’re only talking from experience, of course. 

Step 5: Evacuate Sooner Rather Than Later

Once we had finished prepping the house and packing what we could, we finally hit the road. Making the decision to leave BEFORE the evacuation became mandatory was a huge time-saver in our case. We’ve heard too many horror stories about people sitting on I-75 or I-95 in bumper-to-bumper traffic during an evacuation. We knew we didn’t want to be stuck in this, therefore, we left as soon as we could.

We spent a few days in Athens, GA before realizing the storm would also be affecting that area, and it would be a few days still before we would be able to return home. So, we decided to move further north to stay with my Aunt and Uncle in Kentucky, who so graciously welcomed our big family.

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Step 6: Wait Out The Storm and Plan Your Return

We were very grateful for having family to take us in, and even more grateful to find out that Sanibel wasn’t hit as hard as expected. In fact, just a day or two after the storm, our neighbor informed us that our home didn’t appear to have any damage, and that they even heard our air conditioner kick on! Wow!

It can sometimes take days or even weeks for power to be restored after a storm, so we were extremely surprised to hear ours was back on so quickly. We waited another day before hitting the road to ensure we would have enough fuel to make it home, since most of the gas stations in Florida were depleted before the storm.

Walking in our home at 12 midnight, I jumped with joy to find no water or damage to our home! There were a ton of tree branches down in our yard and our trampoline relocated, but other than that, no damage occurred, which is simply amazing!

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Step 7: Assess Your Damage and Start Cleanup

The office also fared well through the storm. Our street sign ended up in the middle of the road, but thankfully a fellow Sanibel resident retrieved it for us and returned it to our office this week. For the most part, Sanibel and Captiva are already getting back to “life as usual.” Power has been restored, and businesses have opened their doors again.

Hurricane Irma

Step 8: Help The Community Return To Normal ASAP

There is still a bit of clean up to be done, especially with tree debris in yards and bike paths. However the trucks have been working hard this week to remove the piles from the side of the road, and restore the beauty of our island.

I want to thank you all for your outpouring of love and support as we dealt with Hurricane Irma. We are happy to be back, and looking forward to a great season ahead!

Susan McCallion About Susan McCallion

Meet "Your Favorite Redhead." Susan was exposed to real estate while young with her parent's 8 Re/MAX offices in Connecticut! In 2008, Susan and Jim became permanent Sanibel residents, starting McCallion & McCallion to bring a fresh approach to real estate.