Turns out we’re not done talking about the hurricane.
The one that, this time last week, seemed certain to slam into Citrus County. Just a matter of days.
We reacted in kind. Gas stations packed, generators sold out, grocery store shelves bare of water, toilet paper and munchies. Not that I would know, but I’m guessing the liquor stores were busy as well.
Sandbag sites opened. There was talk of a 15-foot storm surge. Eventually, the call for mandatory evacuations; schools closed to make room for shelters.
It seems as if we were prepared. But were we?
Take a good look at what Hurricane Ian did to Naples, Fort Myers (Fort Myers Beach is pictured with today's blog), Port Charlotte, Venice and Sarasota, then decide.
I ran into David DeCarlo the other day. David was a former sheriff’s emergency management director, and a darn good one at that. A no-nonsense cop who believed in giving the public plenty of information about tropical weather without sensationalizing it.
He also didn’t mince words about what to expect. No could say David DeCarlo didn't prepare Citrus County the best he could.
DeCarlo did a tremendous job with communication, both for the public and those officials who were preparing in their own areas of responsibility.
Look back at Hurricane Irma in 2017. The sheriff’s office was all over Facebook with multiple live video interviews and updates. Sheriff Mike Prendergast right out front. A monster hurricane was heading our way and the Citrus County Sheriff wanted everyone braced for the worst.
When the county ordered mandatory evacuations, people responded. Others readied their homes for safety. We were given a dire warning and reacted to it. State Road 44 was empty the morning of Irma’s expected arrival.
The powerful hurricane had dwindled to a pretty excitable tropical storm by the time it swept through here, knocking out power to thousands who sweltered over the next several hot, uncomfortable days.
But we all said the same thing: Thank God we were spared.
And what did we all say Friday morning, awakening to a beautiful blue sky and cool fall breeze? Thank God we were spared.
Our response shouldn’t end there. Gratitude is great, I’m all for it. And I’m thrilled to be sleeping in a warm bed in a wing of the Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters.
Going about my daily business as if last week never happened just doesn’t feel right. It’s not survivor’s guilt, or anything like that. I just feel a call to action. Maybe you do too.
Below is a list of ways to help. It’s not a complete list. My guess is you probably know SOMEONE — at your business, church, homeowners’ group etc. — who is collecting funds or goods for hurricane victims in Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties.
The Rotary effort is interesting because it’s the Rotary district that includes Citrus gathering supplies, then trucking them on Sunday to the Rotary district that includes the four affected counties. Those SW Florida Rotarians will know where best to provide funds or supplies in their communities.
I’m sure there are similar efforts in Citrus County that I’m unaware of.
So, yeah, this is a challenge of sorts. Anyone who lives in this county, does business in this county, is a snowbird or a visitor: If you awoke this morning grateful to be in Citrus County, then by golly do something to help the victims of Hurricane Ian.
We were spared. Let’s put our gratitude into action.
—Several places are collecting items for hurricane victims. PLEASE NO CLOTHING OR WATER. This isn’t a complete list, but you’ll get the idea: rubber gloves, Clorox, mops, cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries, brooms, buckets, paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, soap, shampoo, baby formula, cleaning rags.
Drop off locations: Maus Nissan of Crystal River (8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.); New Church Without Walls (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.); United Way of Citrus County (8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.); Community Food Bank (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
These sites are collecting through this Saturday, then trucking out what’s collected.
— Checks may be mailed to: Rotary District 6950, PO Box 1084, New Port Richey FL 34656; make checks payable to “District 6950 Grant Account, Ian Relief Fund.”
— Click here to make donations to the Rotary effort online.
— Donate through United Way, either online or by mail: 1582 N. Meadowcrest Blvd., Crystal River FL 34429.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.