Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Concerned about Wilma...

I've been watching Wilma developing with some degree of trepidation. I don't like the way that the track projects.

My parents have taught in the public schools in the state of Maine for the last 40 years. Over the past 5-10, they spent their February and April vacations in Florida, and actively looking for a piece of property. They traveled the entire state, looking in many different places. Last summer, they finally found a place that they liked, with a price that they liked. It was a smallish house, but on a large lot, with spectacular landscaping, palms, a fountain - like a park was how they described it. On August 12, 2004, they closed on the house in Punta Gorda.

On August 13, Hurricane Charley hit. And the city of Punta Gorda was virtually destroyed.

Now, while that seems like, and is, awful timing, they were really very lucky. They didn't have anything in the house - they hadn't moved in yet. And the house, unlike many, was still standing. There was significant damage to the roof, and one of the rooms was ruined, as the roof on that section had lifted off. But they lost nothing that wasn't reparable, with the exception of some trees. I spent a week down there in September with my dad, trying to clean up and fix up. (We were actually in Florida when Hurricane Jeanne came through.) It was astounding to drive around. We drove for miles, all over Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, and for a 10-mile radius there was literally not a single building without visible damage. We've got a friend who runs a marine service, and he'd been in Punta Gorda for a month when I was down there, doing salvage work. We went out to the race track where they were staging, and there were a staggering number of boats and RVs that had been salvaged and were going to get auctioned off. It really was an amazing situation.

And the recovery is still not complete. There was a story in the Washington Post within the past month about the "FEMA city" which is still operational in Punta Gorda, a trailer park set up for the victims of Charley, where many of them are still living.

And it wouldn't take much of a change in Wilma's projected track to take her right through Charlotte Harbor, the same way that Charley went...



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