for anyone interested, i would like to share my first hand experience of hurricane charley and how it has forever changed my life. after growing up in tomahawk, wi all my life i recently moved to sanibel island, florida last october. i fell in love with the island right away and soon found a great job waitressing where i was making great money to start paying off my student loans from college. things were going great for me and my boyfiend, tom, until a little storm named charley decided to pay us a visit. we were told to evacuate the island the day before the storm. since neither of us had ever experienced a tropical storm or hurricane before we decided to take the advice and leave the island asap. i packed everything of value to me in my car fearing that i would lose my house in the storm and have to start a new life somewhre else. tom and i drove over to the east side of florida by fort lauderdale where the storm was not predicted to hit. good move on our part because as you probably know the hurricane hit sanibel and captiva island on friday aug 13th. we stayed on the east side for 3 days because officials were not letting people on the island because they didn't know how safe it was. through the use of cell phones i was able to contact some friends that had ridden out the storm in a house on sanibel island. (i still think they are crazy for doing that, but they were all ok) my friends informed me that the islands were a mess, with so many trees down that you couldn't see the road, power lines had snapped like rubber bands and lay all over the ground. also most of the houses had suffered some damage. the restaurant i worked at had broken windows, trees down all over the place and part of the roof was missing. they described the beautiful island of captiva as resembling a war zone. i had no way of knowing how my house was affected. i just kept watching the news at our hotel and expecting the worst but hoping for the best. on sunday we drove back toward sanibel but were informed that we would not be allowed to get back on the island until wednesday which was 3 whole days away. i decided to go up to tampa to stay with my cousin because there was no power at my friends houses in fort myers. finally 6 days after the storm had hit i was able to get back on the island. before i even got across the bridge i could see the drastic change in the island. there used to be trees so thick surrounding houses that all you could see was little specs of color resembling a house, now almost all the trees were gone from the storm that the houses were well defined. driving down my street, i saw house after house with damage to it, mostly from a tree falling on it or near by. however to my surprise as i pulled into my driveway with my heart beating faster than ever in my life, i saw my house still intact. in fact, not one tree had fallen in my yard. there was alot of debris in my yard from my neighbors houses but my house was fine. as i looked at the damage all over my neighborhood i noticed that my house was one of the only without any real damage. later i found out that the houses across the streed from me had flooded and many houses next to mine had also had some water damage, but my house was ok. i am very lucky and fortunate. i rode out to my friend, Jamie's house on the other side of the island to check out the damage at her house. she was not as lucky. the storm had knocked over 2 large trees in here driveway blocking the entire thing. also her roof was damaged and when we went up in the attic we could see light coming throught the roof, definately something we would have to buy a tarp for and patch up the next day. still her house does not compare to others that we had seen. some with the roof blown completly off, others with a tree or two leaning on the side of the house. many with broken windows or screened in porches demolished, almost all had lost trees. fortunately, jamie's house had power because her power lines are underground. but neither of our houses had running water, something i used to take for granted. we got some friends to help and the next day we put two large tarps on the roof to patch up the holes. it was 103 degrees out. the mosquitos were terrible and we all got a little bit sunburnt. next we went to my friends 30 foot sailboat to get all of his belongings out of it. the boat had crashed into a dock during the hurricane and ended up on land ruining the boat and therefore making him homeless. it was a sad day. since there was a cerfew on the island from 7pm to 7am, we had to return to fort myers for the night. the next day we had to clean out all of the rotten food that had been in my fridge for the past week. it was smelly and hot in my house; another 95+ degree day. i almost threw up after seeing and smelling how disgusting goat cheese and leftover mac and cheese can get after one week of not being refrigerated. my house still did not have power, but the water was finally turned back on which helped with the cleaning process. as jamie and i were sweating our butts off in my house, a truck drove by with a voice on a speaker sysem saying,"come out of your houses, we have free food, don't be shy, come out for a cold drink." it was the american red cross. they gave us a free meal, and some snacks for later and the best part was a cold glass of lemonade to drink to help cool us off. these people were great. we soon realized there were people like them all over the place trying to help out anyway they could. business were donating bottled water, trucks brought bags of ice, churches were cooking meals, the whole community was coming together to help each other out. it has been about 12 days since the hurricane and about 70% of the island still does not have power, my house included. they are hoping to have power to everyone on aug 29th. i am crossing my fingers. the power line in my yard was damaged in the storm, so it could be longer to fix. tom and i are staying with a friend in fort myers who has kind of adopted us for the month.
he was able to go back to work at the golf course on the island today. they sustained some major tree damage, but should be opening as soon as they get the power back on. as for my job it will be much longer. the restaurnat i work at is on captiva island which was hit much, much harder than sanibel island. my boss is expecting it to take quite some time to get the necessary repairs done to get the place running again. he is hoping to be open by oct 1st. i have had 13 days off from work already and i never thought i'd say it, but i miss my job and all the people i work with. i am not sure what i will do until oct 1st. most places that are hiring are reciving over 100 applications a day from people who lost their jobs. some places are stopping taking apps because they have so many already. maybe i will take a road trip north to tomahawk to visit some friends. who knows. all i know is how incredibly lucky i am. the damage in my area does not compare to the damage in the areas of port charlotte and punta gorda, along with other areas. many of these people lost their houses along with everything they owned. it will be a long time for the rebuilding process to be complete and it will never be the same as it was on august 12th the day before charley paid a visit. these areas are as close as 30 minutes away from my house and i think to myself how it could have been me in their situation. i wanted to help but knew i really didn't have money to donate, since i am not working right now. so tom and i went through our closets and formed a huge pile of clothes that we could donate to the salvation army. all in all we came up with 5 bags of clothes to give away. it really feels good to do something nice for someone else. if anyone would like to donate any money or anything to the red cross of salvation army, these are the numbers to each.
Salvation army 1-800-SAL ARMY or 1-800-725-2769
Red Cross 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-435-7669
overall the attitude of the people of southwest florida is quite inspiring. the news channels are playing commericals to thank all the volunteers for their help stressing that "together we will rebuild southwest florida" the banks, restaurants and stores are collecting food, clothes and supplies to give to those who need them the most. i have seen trucks come with supplies to help from north carolina, texas, indiana and even new jersey. it is reassuring that so many people have done what they can to help out. i had never before that i would ever experience a hurricane but the experience has made me a better person. if anyone has any comments or questions feel free to write back.
thanks for listing, dawn carey