A couple mornings ago, while going through my everyday routine of waking from a dead sleep to trudging to the kitchen for a strong cup-of-joe, I realized that I accidently set my alarm to go off an hour early. By this point, I was not about to go back to bed – so I stepped outside and decided to enjoy the absolutely beautiful morning. Sitting out on my deck, I noticed how green everything has suddenly become. And…with hurricane season among us, I realized how incredibly easy it is to forget how quickly all of the beauty can get really, really ugly in the blink of an eye.
Then, I started remembering Hurricane Charley…which quite honestly didn’t happen all that long ago. It was the hardest to hit Florida since 1992, and did so with a bang. Prior to the hurricane, Florida governor Jeb Bush called a state of emergency declaration due to the impending threat that Charley posed to the state. Because of the threat, 1.9 million people along the Florida west coast were urged to evacuate, including 380,000 residents in Tampa.
My family and I decided to “hunker down” and stay home as we lived far south of where all the predictions landed the Hurricane. Living about 20 miles north of Port Charlotte, I remember watching the sky quickly turned black. The chances of the hurricane heading south were extremely slim – we thought we would be perfectly fine, in fact had the in-laws come down as it would be safer in North Port, as opposed to Bradenton, which is where they lived right on the water. Suddenly – there was a change. Instead of following its predicted path, Charley slammed Port Charlotte. Houses, businesses, bridges were completely destroyed. Driving through Port Charlotte was a real challenge as traffic signals and street signs were no longer where they used to be and the signs that once marked the business location was either so severely damaged that you could no longer read it or just gone.
My good buddy from Tampa had already evacuated to Orlando – he was one of those that decided to get the heck out of town. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized my friend experienced the fear of dealing with a devastating blow to Orlando. Ironic that the hurricane was supposed to strike Tampa (so we stayed “safe and sound” about 100 miles south), and the hurricane hit us dead on. Ironic that much of Tampa fled to Orlando – and the hurricane decided to slam Orlando. I learned an important lesson…you can NEVER be too prepared.
Fortunately, we all came out ok, no one was hurt and for that I am hugely thankful. However, there was major damage to most of the businesses that my friends and family frequented (which took months and thousands to repair) and the entire state of Florida suffered $15 billion dollars worth of property damage. Many lost their data. Many struggled for years to just get their businesses up and running again. Many of the businesses would never reopen as the loss was too great.
The good news is that – it doesn’t have to be that way. There are tools, resources and protective measures that you can take that will minimize damage. Interested in learning more? Sign up for our newsletter. The Florida Gulf Coast Disaster Recovery Series launches on the 1st of June and will include tools, resources, Q&A’s, webinars and more for community business owners.