It’s been one week since Hurricane Irma hit Southwestern Florida. Residents in Collier County, where the storm made landfall after the Florida keys, are in the early stages of the recovery process still cleaning up debris, wading through floodwaters, struggling to get gas, and trying to get by without electricity. It will take months to fully assess the damage, and the rebuilding process could take years. Yet already they are looking ahead to the next steps. They are figuring out how to continue with their lives amidst the devastation.
In the agricultural community of Immokalee, about 50 miles east of Naples, Olga Garza, shuffled through water surrounding her house. She’s lived there for 37 years, and this is only the second time it’s flooded. The first was when Hurricane Harvey hit. The entire property is covered in at least six inches of water.
“It’s not draining. It’s just standing here,” she says. “And you can smell it.”
She said she’s called the county and no one has responded.
Her granddaughter’s husband, Fernando Rivera, helped wheel a grill out to cook dinner.
“We don’t want the kids to get near [the water],” he says. “Especially after a hurricane, you don’t know what’s in it.”
Near the Immokalee Farmer’s Market, Ray Gonzalez looks up at the damaged aluminum roof of the produce stall in which he’s standing. He says they had boarded up the roof prior to the storm but it wasn’t enough.
Other residents are waiting for electricity to come back on so they can cook, like Sixta Vidaurri and her granddaughter Amree Vidaurri.
Standing outside his home, Alfonso Garza gestures to the debris in his yard. He says he isn’t physically capable of moving it, and hopes someone will come to clear it.
Ft Myers, Fla.
On Wednesday, a seasonally warm day, Shelia Lunsford, who moved to Florida three years ago from Alabama, was raking up debris in the heat at the Woodsmoke Camping Resort in Fort Myers. The RV and mobile home park had dodged the worst of the damage, but behind her an uprooted tree sat on top of a neighbor’s parked car.
“We’re doing the best we can to get cleaned up,” she said.
Many of the park’s snowbirds won’t return to Florida until at least October. So Lunsford has been photographing properties to send to absent neighbors.
“They’re freaking out,” she said. “It’s helping them tremendously to see that there’s damage or no damage.”
In Naples, broken tree limbs lined the streets of upscale beach neighborhoods. The day after the storm, Matthew Delgado, 26, who grew up in Naples, walked down with two friends who were checking on family homes. He said he planned to spend all week cleaning up the neighborhood.
“Now the real work begins.”