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Rotary Happenings: Speaker provides facts about hurricanes

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

Well here it is, the first week of June and we’re already talking about a tropical disturbance in the Caribbean. Watchful eyes are keeping a lookout on this storm and are tracking it’s movements in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. After all, we are now officially in hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30 and although early in hurricane season, these tropical disturbances can take unexpected twists and turns intensifying into full-blown hurricanes, at any time.

Our Rotary speaker this week was Kristie Anders, SCCF education director talking about hurricanes. She started out by giving us this statistic: 50 percent of our island residents have never been through a hurricane season here on the islands.

This is important to note, since this year the predictions “The 2015 hurricane season was somewhat benign in the Atlantic, but if La Nina kicks in this coming summer (as predicted), it could be a troubling season.” NASA climatologist, Bill Patzert.

By the numbers: 14 named storms, eight of those storms becoming hurricanes and four of those hurricanes becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) Anders said, “Hurricane season is a roll of the dice.”

Anders gave us a look-back at previous storms that have hit our area:

  • 1873: no name a hurricane hit Punta Rassa wiping away all the buildings and demolishing the area with raging winds and a 14′ storm surge.
  • 1910 “The Big Storm” hit the islands destroying all the crops.
  • 1919 “Key West Hurricane” washed over the islands, salting the soil.
  • 1921 “The Tampa Bay Hurricane” Category 3 Captiva was split at Red Fish Pass.
  • 1926 “The Great Miami Hurricane” Category 4. This storm was very destructive to the islands. Captiva was severed from Sanibel when a hurricane storm surge created a new channel – Blind Pass.
  • 1960 “Hurricane Donna” Category 4, the dry hurricane. Damage to the roads was caused by the tides that “crested four to six feet above normal. Australian pines, insecurely anchored by wide-spreading, but shallow roots, fell like tenpins across the main road that travels down the center of Sanibel and along the Captiva Gulf. Much of the Captiva road was impassable, parts of the Sanibel road were blocked under sand drifts, and tree falls. Upper Captiva washed away.” Santiva Chronicle.

And now to “Hurricane Charley”

  • 2004 “Hurricane Charlie” Category 4, winds of 131 mph. Turns from simple tropical storm to hurricane. Changes course from going to Tampa. Hits dead on North Captiva, Captiva, and Sanibel. Mandatory evacuation of islands. Some stayed. Islands closed. Although 18′ storm surge was predicted, luckily that wasn’t the case. Wind and tornados disseminated fauna, foliage, and homes on the islands. The islands had no functioning sewer system, electricity, or water. Phone lines were downed. Electricity was knocked out and not restore for about five days. Roads were blocked with fallen trees and debris. North Captiva Island was split in two by the hurricane. Residents could not return to the islands until roads were cleared.

Anders and her husband Red lived on North Captiva and were caught off guard by Hurricane Charlie, they did not evacuate in time. The National Weather Service and local meteorologists gave confusing information as to the direction of the storm and at some point, it was too late. The damage to North Captiva was incredible, roofs were destroyed, windows blew in, and walls collapsed. No electricity and no communication channels. Boats and planes were destroyed; there was no way off the island. It wasn’t until the Monday after the storm that the national guard arrived by boat to assess the damage to island property and secure property from vandalism that they realized Kristin and Red were not looters, but residents of North Captiva. The soldiers helped in the cleanup of the island.

There were definite lessons learnt by the residents that stayed on the islands during the storms, don’t mess with Mother Nature. Most of them definitely will not do that again.

Resident Hurricane Passes are now available at Sanibel City Hall, don’t wait. Hurricane forecasts give indications of the path of these storms. When it looks like the storm is coming this way, make hotel reservations. Ander’s suggestion, somewhere near I-75. Take forecasts of storm surges seriously.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary will not be meeting at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club for the next two months. On Friday, June 10 our meeting will take place at the Sanibel Shell museum starting with breakfast at 7 a.m. Further meeting information, can be found at www.sanibelrotary.org or check our Facebook page Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club.

Guests are always welcomed at all of our San-Cap Rotary meetings.