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Shell Shocked: The life and death of Irma

By Staff | Sep 27, 2017

I don’t recall any other situation in my many years in Sanibel that caused such a range of emotions. They went from fear to acceptance to relief.

When the dire predictions began to force us to focus on topics other than zoning regulations and mosquito control we were shocked and horrified to learn that our beloved Sanibel could be totally destroyed. How ridiculous, we thought initially.

But when the weather experts repeatedly warned us that we wouldn’t have an island to come home to stirrings of concern filled our brain waves. Concern led to outright denial and finally dread. Our entire way of living was at stake. What would we do?

There was only one thing to do. Glue ourselves to the Weather Channel and watch the slow march to the electric chair. I thought to myself this is what someone who is about to have his life snuffed out with a huge audience on hand to watch the show must feel like.

Inch by inch the intolerable and unwelcome Irma crawled toward us. She was taunting us with her malevolent eye just like Jack the Ripper did. She circled and circled letting us know she was on her way. We saw with our very own eyes fixed on the Weather Channel what Irma was capable of. She destroyed St. Martin and wreaked havoc in other parts of the Caribbean.

She was smiling at us in Sanibel. “Just you wait, laddies, I’m on my way. Get out of my way unless you enjoy dancing with me. I’m coming. I’m going to smash your restaurants, your homes, your library, your school and your shell collection. I’m going to destroy your lives. I’m going to show you what it’s like to mess with Mother Nature. I’m going to have a grand old time at your expense.”

The Weather Channel told us that Irma was going to be apocalypse now, the end of the world, nature’s revenge to mankind for all of our climate infidelities. It was going to be revenge for Hillary’s emails, Trump’s sexism, North Korea’s taunts and Brad Pitt’s box office failures.

And as the predictions became direr we ran for the hills. We left our homes which was tantamount to a total retreat of our soldiers from the battlefield. We were told we couldn’t stand up and fight – that we had to get the hell out of there.

How humiliating. We hunted for shelter, water, a simple shower and some semblance of civilization. We mixed and mingled with countless evacuees in schools, arenas and hotels.

We swapped stories. We described the experience of a kindly police officer knocking at the door of your home and gently telling you to get as far away from your home as is humanly possible.

And we remained glued to the Weather Channel and waited. We watched the weather reporters being whipped about by swirling winds. We watched them waist high in flooded areas. We watched trees being toppled effortlessly by Irma’s gushes of torture.

We sent emails to friends and families lamenting our plights and hoping that some of them would take us in when it was all over.

I even got a text message from my sister-in-law on the east coast of Florida stating her latitude and longitude numbers in case she needed to be evacuated by helicopter.

Finally, the moment of truth came. Irma inched toward us with saliva dripping from her gaping eye. She was ready for bear. And then there was no mention of Sanibel. The weather people talked about Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, but Sanibel was left out of the conversation.

What was going on? Was Sanibel so unimportant to the weather reporters that it wasn’t even worth including in the damage being wrought? We waited and waited. And finally, news trickled in.

Irma had side swiped Sanibel but had more urgent matters to attend to. Irma had teased and taunted us into never before endured impotence. But it had stuck its venal tongue out at us and said it preferred Marco Island to Sanibel.

And more news trickled in. Trees and branches were downed. There was no power or water. The roads were initially impassable. But the homes and buildings were intact. We were saved.

Is there a lesson in here somewhere? Was it faith and hope that guided us? Was it the state of the art of hurricane forecasting? Was it the island of Sanibel telling Irma to take a hike? Who knows? What we do know is that Sanibel is still Sanibel.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.