Fort Myers, FL

Hurricane Ian and the Aftermath

Lisa S. Gerard

The unsettling feel of dystopia
5-year-old boy looking out window as Hurricane Ian ragesPhoto byAuthor Lisa S. Gerard

“Yes, it was as bad as you saw on the news.”

I am no photographer.


I took pictures from my hobbling, old iPhone 8+ as Hurricane Ian bore down on us, as well as in the echoing, eerie aftermath.

Fort Myers, Florida became the hurricane’s target with only a few hours' notice. Our home.

Evacuation orders had keyed in on the northern Tampa Bay area before the storm took a last-minute, southeasterly turn into us.

Unpredictability happens.
Radar screenshot of hurricane eye over Fort Myers, FLPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
hurricane winds bending palm treesPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
The blue dot is our location and the last pic I could take before the radar cut out, and our view as the storm approached, photos by the author

My grandson and I live in a newly constructed concrete block apartment with hurricane-rated windows. Many were not as fortunate.

Houses were swallowed by the Gulf without care.

Too many lives were lost.

The unavoidable noise level troubled me the most. Unidentified projectiles startled us as they slammed against the building without warning.

The howling winds raged, roared, and hissed as lights blinked. Power finally popped with resounding confidence.

Defeated, the electricity quit.

Buckets of water randomly slammed sideways into our faces, protected behind windows, whenever we braved lifting the blinds.

Then the dark, quiet, interior became eerie and spooky.

Was this the hurricane’s eye?

I wildly texted everyone to send me a screenshot of the radar tracking the storm. I needed to know.

How fast was it moving, where was it, and when will it leave us?

Every message was ‘undeliverable.’

I can only describe the sinking feeling as sickening.

I made a mental note to purchase a battery-operated weather radio.

We were afforded a few minutes of reprieve from the onslaught. I’ve heard about the calm of the hurricane’s eye. It had to be over us.

Quick appearances were made by neighbors who briskly walked their dogs.

A lull. For minutes only.

The storm resurged with the departure of its eye and we were once again assaulted by the powerful bands of the hurricane.


Short clip as Hurricane Ian arrives in Fort Myers, Florida

The awfulness grew in the unknowing.

Zero communication.

No internet, cell coverage, or power for TV broadcasts. No lights, anywhere, to indicate life.

Hours dragged on interminably slowly as I swirled in the abyss of no knowledge.

Morning came with deafening silence.

Where are the birds?

Hungry for any communication and understanding, I packed up my grandson and headed out in the remaining forces to assess the damage.
uprooted mature treePhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
flooded parking lotPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

Everywhere I looked, something was broken.
busted street signsPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
fallen trees block roadwayPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
palm trees fallingPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
overturned metal bench in fallen branch debrisPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

Downed power lines, branches, and uprooted trees prevented escape. Where would we, could we, go anyway?

Though I had destinations offered by generous family and friends, many roads suffered in states of impassability.

It was too late.

Traffic lights hung precariously by a thread overhead.

I drove twice a day, carefully navigating around the debris to the neighboring county, to grab an internet connection.

When possible, I chose hotel parking lots. Crumpled light poles, overturned signs, and smashed fixtures were all mixed with large wayward trees and branches.
nature's trash covers roadsPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
damaged and falling treesPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

The blue skies and sunshine defied the events displayed on the ground.
Destroyed netting at Top Golf, Fort Myers, FLPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
privacy fences destroyedPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

My pictures hardly tell the full story.

The sadness overwhelms me. There exists an odd juxtaposition.

Look up to the beauty. Look down for the reality.
lone man walking in parking lot after the stormPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
street lights smashed in parking lotPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

At times, I felt on the brink of mini-madness. The impact was underscored by sirens. Search, secure, and safety, they say.

Keeping a brave front on top of my feelings of hopelessness clashed and drained me.

But for my grandson, I may have pulled up my stakes.

Three and four days passed before the return of power and shaky cell service.

Day six and we await running water.

Our little community playground stood strong and remained unscathed, surrounded by felled trees.

Word of mouth spread quickly and kids came out from the woodwork to play.

Invites went door to door, for neighbors to bring perishables to the grilling area outside our units.

The impromptu gathering served more than food.

Camaraderie, humanness, and people needing people afforded us a sense of mental stability. The blanketed sky kept the air weighted.

Smiles disguised the gloom.
Grandson and bubble maker the day after hurricanePhoto byLisa S Gerard, author
community BBQ the day after Hurricane IanPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

I quelled my true despair. People from other areas messaged me to ask if the hurricane was as bad as broadcast on the news. I was stymied.

Those reports were not fake.

Ordinarily an over-explainer, I responded with a one-word answer, “yes.” What more can I say? I shook my head and heaviness overtook my heart.

Fort Myers Beach, just 10 miles away, will take years, possibly generations, to recover.

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My neighbors and I know that our complaints pale in comparison to the tragedies.

We are simply inconvenienced now.

We have our lives and homes.

Our kids play seemingly unaware of the magnitude of the storm.

Portable potties were delivered on-site yesterday. Publix has ice. Schools will reopen, eventually. The water main will get repaired. Whenever.

Maybe we can shower soon, too — but even that’s sketchy for me in regular conditions.

I am no photographer.


But, yes, it was as bad as you saw on the news.
Fort Myers, FL restaurant covered in tree debrisPhoto byLisa S Gerard, author

Thank you to everyone who reached out in prayers, support, and well wishes for us ~ you are greatly appreciated.

It’s good to return, one step and one day at a time.

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Memoirist and storyteller on parenting, mental health, relationships, humor

Fort Myers, FL

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