Experiencing Hurricane Ian by Angel Carlton
"Life is merely a series of hurricanes, some are just more destructive than others." ~Angel Carlton
It’s been 3 sobering weeks since Hurricane Ian swept through SW Florida causing devastation beyond our wildest imagination. This certainly was not in my plan when I relocated to paradise to start my new life in April of 2021.
As an author, much of my writings are on the topic of navigating change so that we transform into a greater version of ourselves. I like to think of myself as someone well-versed on the topic of personal transformation as life shifts accelerate with its array of unpredictable circumstances. This, however, was one I was not anticipating and can honestly say, it has me reflecting on the cycle of change through a new lens of reality.
What I have come to realize in the past couple of weeks is that experiencing a natural disaster is one of the most extraordinary specimens of transformation and a tremendous opportunity for growth that life has to offer. Sure, I feel the deepest empathy when I observe natural disasters taking place in other parts of the world, but it is extremely humbling when it happens to you and your home life, work life, social life and your entire community is ripped out from under you and destroyed in a single day.
Like everyone else in Florida, we closely watched the weather as the hurricane made its way up the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, September 27th, we made the spontaneous decision to head to my parent’s home after our area was called to evacuate. Although at that point Ian was making its way toward Tampa, we felt getting off the coast and making our way inland a few more miles would be a safer choice. So, we secured our home for some high winds and packed a small overnight bag with a few toys for our puppy and headed to Estero for some peace of mind.
Wednesday, when Ian decided to juke hard right toward Fort Myers, we watched television with grave concern. We kept in close contact with our neighbors who decided to “ride the storm out” in their homes and they said the water was rising so quickly they were lucky to have evacuated when they did. Unfortunately, not everyone was as fortunate. We realized our home life was in danger when we saw the water surge flood through the Naples area. It was at that point we knew that our waterfront property which rested on a beautiful canal in Cape Coral was in trouble. Shortly after that the internet went out and we were now blindfolded with whatever was happening all around us. Fortunately, my parents are on the same grid as a local emergency shelter, so the power flickered throughout the day but was never completely lost unlike our neighboring friends who had lost power for weeks. Phone signal was lost and family members watching the storm from afar were doing their best to keep us informed of Ian’s next move. Meanwhile, the sounds of the hurricane shutters violently banging from the 100+ mile per hour winds were absolutely horrifying and will forever be engraved in my memory. We did our best to keep our 6-month-old puppy occupied by playing with her although she was vomiting from fear; poor little thing was expressing much of what we too were feeling.
We had no idea what we would wake up to and went to bed with a somber anticipation of the marks Ian would leave behind. Waking up to blue sky and a perfect Floridian day, we stepped outside to take our dog for a walk dodging trees and debris laying amidst the streets, pool cages torn to pieces and neighbors gathering to check on one another. We wanted nothing more than to head to our home to assess the damages there, but we couldn’t get out of my parent’s neighborhood until Friday when they removed the massive trees that were laying uprooted in the middle of the street.
Friday morning, the sounds of chainsaws clearing the streets gave us hope that we could give it a try to make our way to see our home. Needless to say, the drive was solemn as we witnessed the destruction get worse the closer we got to Cape Coral. Traffic lights were down, literally swinging in the middle of intersections, cars cautiously driving through chaos, sirens of rescue vehicles raced the roads, homes and businesses barely standing, missing rooftops made for an unrecognizable drive we’ve made so many times.
Tears began to flow as we crossed the Cape Coral bridge and witnessed boats upside down that mysteriously made their way to land. Our beautiful little community looked like a war zone; like an atomic bomb was lit as not a building or tree in sight was untouched. It’s one thing to watch this on television and another to see it in 3rd dimensional reality…my eyes are seeing what my mind could not quite comprehend. My heart continued to pound as we drove down our main street, dodging trees, and debris along the way. We pulled up to the house and saw that it was still intact. The roof was missing some shingles, the fence was torn down and noticed some of the fence panels blew through the screen and into the dirt-filled pool but felt a sigh of relief thinking that isn’t as bad as some of what we’ve witnessed, at least until we walked to the rear of the home and saw our boat taking a nosedive into the canal with a palm tree on its side across the dock, the pool and lanai filled with river water and debris. The debris splattered the entire newly painted home leaving a 3-foot water line indicating an approximate 8-12 foot surge from the canal, lending us with great concern of what we would encounter on the inside.
We slowly opened the door to see if perhaps we were one of the lucky ones. Initially we were unsure but then as we splattered through the puddles of receding water in our living room, it didn’t take long for reality to set in. We stood in awe realizing everything in it was completely destroyed from the nearly 2 feet of water that flowed through our home trashing everything it touched. We were slowly grasping as the reality that we were not coming home any time soon. So, we grabbed a few things we were able to salvage, went through the precious, irreplaceable items like photos that were forever lost and slowly began to settle into our new reality.
Everything is gone. Just. Like. That. Our happy life in paradise has been brutally disrupted but we have one thing Ian could not take and that is our love. We have one another to hug and a shoulder to cry on whenever we need one (and believe me, there have been plenty of tears), we’ve been blessed with my wonderful parents who have provided us with a place to lay our heads as we come to terms with it all and we have the generosity and support of so many friends and family that have brought comfort. Through all this I realize that love is more powerful than any hurricane. Love will prevail over fear…fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear of destruction, and fear of all the sudden change all at once. Love, relationships, and faith are the things that storms cannot take from us.
So, on behalf of our temporarily tainted piece of paradise, take the stuff, the material things, if you must, Ian. However, like the buildings you washed away, the beaches & bridges you’ve torn apart, and the trees you’ve broken to pieces, we may be bruised, but we will survive, we will grow from this, and we will reinvent ourselves to become better & stronger than before…because we believe in the power of love and you can never take that from us.
Angel Carlton is a published author of Dedicated to Destiny, a professional speaker, a personal growth & leadership development facilitator, and a former professional NBA cheerleader for the Chicago Bulls, Angel is an advocate for emotional/mental well-being and today she enthusiastically cheers on humanity for conscious change.
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