Thursday, September 29, 2022: 8:05 AM, the power still out, I write by hand, expecting to copy it to my laptop sometime later. We sensed Hurricane Ian's presence throughout the night, its winds bouncing through the trees. Rain stopped early this morning and, though still high and windswept, the stream that rose well onto its east bank recedes slowly toward its regular channel. I count thirty-five ibises pecking along a stretch of the golf course.
A bright stretch of cloudless sky briefly shines in the distance, closer to the Gulf of Mexico. Trees shake more or less calmly. A tree limb smashed a bedroom window in our daughter's Sarasota home, half an hour's drive south of us, making them hunker down in a windowless hallway for part of the night. They were somewhat closer to Ian's landfall around Fort Myers, their night likely more fraught than ours. They've emailed us that their power's back on, clean-up proceeding, roads around them still too dangerous to drive, but they're all safe. Our landlady reports that outage here is too widespread to restore locally, and though the coast from St. Petersburg to Naples is in rough shape, Tampa is mostly unaffected. Ian stormed northeast toward Orlando and the Atlantic. I haven't yet learned about its impact on coastal islands near us.
From the lanai, we see branches and limbs deposited by the surging stream as it receded lining the opposite shoreline. Formerly exposed marshes further south have yet to resurface, but the stream should be back to normal in a few days. In our parking lot an elderly man brushes debris off his windshield and sweeps away leaves and branches that accumulated around his car. Nearby, an older couple packs up their station wagon to retreat somewhere with electricity.
A neighbor tells us her brother-in-law down the street has a working generator and we follow her past yards where people saw and rake and pile debris and take down window covers. We chat idly while he charges Sue's laptop and phone, our neighbor's friend's laptop, and an appliance of his own. Back at our condo, we check out fallen trees at the north end of our parking lot, directed there by someone whose window was broken by one collapsed tree and who owned one of the three cars it landed on. Part of the tree rests on the wall of the complex, two windows on each of the four floors visibly damaged; the pavement at its base still clings to it.
Walking out across the golf course, we continually discover fallen trees, cracked trunks, and hanging limbs. Maintenance crews will need several days to clear the landscape. At least fifty white ibises and five sandhill cranes now patrol the grounds. More than a half dozen crows drift down to pick up what look like popcorn kernels outside our neighbor's lanai. We open all the blinds to let in as much daylight as we can, keep the refrigerator closed, make an uncooked supper meal of cheese and crackers.
Just before 8:00 PM, startling us as we read by battery-powered lanternlight on the couch, lights and audio abruptly cut off on Wednesday suddenly brighten and sound out. The dishwasher starts up, lamps brighten the kitchen, living room, one bedroom, and at least one bathroom. I shout, "Harry Lewis!" We don't get television or internet access yet, but we can read in bed by lamplight again and decide when to sleep.
September 30 and Beyond: Hurricane reminders abound: traffic lights out much of the way on a nerve-wracking ride to rent a car, other drivers not as cautious as ours; debris lining streets and sprawling across yards and roofs; our relief when neighborhood signals light up again; thronging vehicles waiting to turn into a still-open gas station; crowds of people restocking supplies at a still functioning supermarket that lost most refrigerated food. With further, safer mobility, we reach our kids' house secure on a street lined with trash bags, piles of tree limbs and furniture, and evidence of vigorous yard work. Online news reports, drone footage, personal videos, and photographs display broad swaths of damage elsewhere: flooded homes, demolished buildings, unsalvageable businesses, the collapsed Sanibel Island causeway, an 18-foot storm surge, desperate anguish of the suddenly homeless, over 119 deaths throughout the state, persistent restoration efforts of homeowners and neighbors.
The hurricane haunts me, but I've only been an inconvenienced bystander, a short-term visitor able to retreat from reminders. I won't live with it daily, like those who still walk or drive these streets and neighborhoods, like those longing to somehow restore their unexpected losses and escape their ominous memories. When we return next autumn, Hurricane Ian's memory will await us here; we'll be hoping that evidence of its presence will be harder to find.