FROM THE OTHER SIDE Hurricane Ian + 16 Days
I can't believe it's already been 16 days since Hurricane Ian hit our Kahlua, and at the same time I can't believe it's only been 16 days since Hurricane Ian hit our Kahlua.
When it was apparent that Fort Myers Beach would be impacted by Ian, Debbie, John, and I, along with some very helpful owners, moved all lanai furniture into the units and stacked all pool chairs in the hallway. After the last owners evacuated, we continued prepping Kahlua by closing the hurricane shutters on the units, placed storm towels against the slider doors, and put the bicycles, outdoor tables, and luggage carts in the lobby. We stuffed the shop full out items such as the bench, grills and recycling bins, and readied our office by moving as much as we could to the tops of cabinets while covering the remaining items with plastic. We carted some of the office equipment up to the third floor, ran one final computer back up, loaded our cars with our computers, monitors, and important paperwork, and lastly, John closed the final hurricane shutter on the lobby.
After Ian hit, many of us in southwest Florida spent the next several days checking on family, friends, and neighbors, while trying to assess, clean and repair our homes. As the days passed without power, running water, or consistent internet, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by neighbors helping neighbors. An extension cord was run from a neighbor with a generator to another neighbor with a garage fridge and freezer. Here we kept meats frozen and medications refrigerated. Grills were fired up feeding all 20 of us two hot meals per day, but the most popular spot was a friend’s house with a generator run coffee maker set up outside her front door with a sign simply reading, “free caffeine”.
Just three days after Ian, Debbie, John, and I were determined to make our way to Kahlua. We couldn’t take our car onto the island, but our adrenaline kept us moving as we walked three miles to Kahlua. We could hear a dog barking in the distance, security alarms beeping, and Coast Guard helicopters overhead. The sand had been plowed to the side of the road, but dust was kicked up every time an emergency vehicle or a rescue transport went by. When we reached Kahlua we were all very quiet, just trying to believe what we were seeing.
The first question that came into my head was “where is everything”? No brick decking or tiki huts, just fish and metal fencing in the pool. The first-floor units 101, 102, 106, lobby, and office were stripped bare, and the shop had collapsed. No couches, fridges, ovens, air conditioners, water heaters, ceiling fans, cabinets, or toilets in sight, just concrete slabs and hanging balconies. After finding the stairways impassable and documenting what we could for the insurance companies, we paused for a few minutes in the parking lot. Around us we saw a kitchen knife, a wind chime, a frying pan, and a star fish. We then crossed Estero Blvd, walked over a concrete pad where a house once sat, and headed towards the canal. There we found a few items belonging to Kahlua…Debbie’s office chair, two of our bikes, and the new pepper grinder that had been on my desk. It was hard to leave, but we slowly walked back to Times Square, briefly pausing on an overturned UPS mailbox.
Even though, for the last 16 months, I have mostly been on the other side of the office wall, there are many owners and guests that I have gotten to know. I, along with Linda, Ted, John and especially Debbie, feel that Kahlua is part of our homes, and its owners are part of our families. We have worked so hard to not only maintain Kahlua, but to improve it in whenever possible. The annual maintenance of the first floor had been completed, including a much needed new coat of paint in the lobby. The second floor was undergoing its deep cleaning, a new ice machine was on its way, and new pool furniture had just been ordered. We had a vision of how we wanted Kahlua to shine, and a plan to get us there.
Now that we are on the other side of the Hurricane, the future of Kahlua is unknown. But the one thing that I am certain of, is that the employees and your Board of Directors are doing everything that we can to move us forward safely and efficiently, with all of our strength, time, effort, and knowledge. Many here at times feel overwhelmed and spread thin but we will continue to work towards securing answers from all angels, from the clean-up companies to the utility companies, from the insurance agents to the engineering professionals. And, as an added incentive for them to prioritize Kahlua, I’m offering $5.00 to any of them that recover my new salt shaker that matches my found pepper grinder.
We are working on having the Kahlua phones forwarded to my cell phone and are checking the Kahlua emails daily. If you need to contact us, please send an email to email@example.com, and we will get back to you as we can. The annual newsletter, which was finalized just before the Hurricane, is starting to reach our owners by mail, and is also posted on our web site. Please take a minute to vote on the four open Board of Director’s positions. If possible email us your vote as the USPS mail has been disrupted.
Thank you all for your good thoughts, encouragement, and support.
LeAnn Ottney Assistant Resort Manage