October 4, 2022 — The tragic loss of human life and billions of dollars in property damage from last week’s Hurricane Ian also brings with it many concerns for snowbirds – will my rental still be available, or was my home seriously damaged. Folks have been calling their friends and scouring the news for reports about what was damaged, and how soon life can return to normal. In many cases, they have not been able to get answers. Thousands will probably find that their plans for spending part of the winter in southeastern climes might have just floated away. This article report on some of the affected areas and what your possible reaction might be. Mainly, we would like to hear what you know – was your home or snowbird rental damaged, have your plans changed, or is all well? Plus, what kind of coping strategies can you put in place if your winter plans have been upended? Please add your thoughts in the Comments section at end.
First priority – lives
Obviously the first priority right now is the preservation of life. Folks who ignored (or couldn’t follow) evacuation orders need to be rescued or supplied. Plans for repairing infrastructure like bridges, roads, and utilities need to be completed and executed. Unessential people will be kept out of damaged areas so this work can be completed. And until that happens, many people will not even know if, and how extensively, their properties have been damaged.
It is a pretty sure thing that the southwest coast of Florida near Fort Myers will not be open for business and snowbirds anytime soon. Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, and Pine Islands have been devastated. It is unlikely that snowbirds who planned on going there this winter will have a place to go to, but if they do, life will be very different. We have heard that communities just inland such as Mediterra in Naples and Pelican Sound in Estero have experienced damage to some of their facilities, but by and large will be have most of their facilities open soon. Active communities nearer the coast, adjacent to a river, or in low-lying areas might have much more serious problems. Neighboring towns like Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Gasparilla, and Marco Island have all experienced severe flooding, with many homes damaged. There was severe flooding in Northport and St. Cloud. So far, at least 90 people in Florida lost their lives from the storm.
Elsewhere in Florida
Portions of Orlando and Central Florida were hit hard, particularly low-lying areas and those near rivers and coasts. New Smyrna Beach on Florida’s east coast is a good example; there is still widespread flooding and electricity outages. Even the Jacksonville area in Florida’s north had what the Governor called a 500 year flood. Millions of people lost power, and many municipalities are under “Boil Water” directives. Many hospitals are running on generators and might not have municipal water. Golf courses all over the state were flooded, and some may have experienced severe damage. It is feared that some piers on Florida’s East Coast were seriously damaged. Cars all over the Sunshine State were ruined by flooding, and we all know how scarce cars were – before Ian. The Florida Keys and the Miami area had some minor damage but nothing like further west and north in the State.
And on to Virginia
The path of the storm up through the Carolinas to Virginia has brought flooding and wind damage to many other communities. The power is out and many areas near a body of water are experiencing flooding. All of these problems could continue for days as flooded rivers deal with rain and storm surges.
What to do?
There are of course ways to try to find out if your home or rental has been damaged. Your Home Owners Association has probably issued updates, or you might have a neighbor or caretaker who could tell you. In areas with near total devastation and where only rescue workers are welcome, it might be more difficult. Perhaps your insurance company or even FEMA could tell you. But going down to visit an area that has no power, safe water, or flooded roads is generally a very bad idea. You will not only be in the way, but life will be hard.
If you find out a home you own has been damaged, the first step is to contact your insurance company. Homes that have been flooded, lost a roof, or had extensive wind damage need to be protected. Even unaffected homes that go too long with power for AC can grow mold quickly. If you have a property manager or caretaker, they can help you too.
For rentals, the situation is different. You might be able to bow out of your contract, particularly if the home is damaged or unusable. Perhaps you hadn’t signed the final papers, or made the deposit – in those cases you have some leverage. We are sure some people will have trouble retrieving deposits. If you know your rental is not going to be available, or the area is so decimated you don’t want to stay there, you might want to change locations – to an area that was not damaged. We expect those areas will experience higher than normal demand.
So what do you know about your Snowbird plans?
It is impossible for us to know the specifics about all the areas of the country were affected by Ian. So we are hoping that we can hear from you – please use the Comments section below to share what happened in your town or active community. Are you sticking with your current plans, or are you moving on to Plan B? Above all, we hope you are safe. We can always change where we spend the winter, if we are alive to make the change!