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5 Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Irma

Agnes Zak

Agnes Zak is an award-winning Realtor with Premier Sotheby's International Realty who is passionate about helping her clients accomplish their goals a...

Agnes Zak is an award-winning Realtor with Premier Sotheby's International Realty who is passionate about helping her clients accomplish their goals a...

Feb 8 6 minutes read

I am one of those stubborn Floridians that decided not to evacuate for Hurricane Irma - for various reasons. We all have our own reasons why we stay or go when a hurricane heads our way. For my family, looking at the path of the storm, there was simply not an area we could go that would not be affected one way or the other.

I am extremely thankful my family was safe during the storm and our home is intact - with the exception of few shingles that my husband fixed the very next morning. Such a good man!

Most importantly I am so glad for the lessons learned in this storm. 

Impact Windows Work

During the storm, we stayed at a friend’s condo on the fourth floor. The entire building has impact glass, hurricane rated windows. After weathering the storm at their place, I’m happy to confirm these windows are worth every penny.  They completely block the noise from wind, breaking trees etc. 

When you’re ready for new windows or you’re building a new construction home, spend the extra money. These windows are totally worth it. Although our house was boarded up and secured for the storm our minds played tricks on us inside a pitch dark home, with all the noise of wind and rain pounding on the metal shutters. 

Media Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

We are all addicted to instant communication these days. Between Facebook and 24/7 coverage about the storm from every possible angle I had the armageddon of what was about to happen already painted right before my eyes.  The lesson for me was in learning to sift through all the information. The local weather channel was much more informative than the national news. The best information was provided by locals who had weathered several hurricanes right here in Naples. None of them paid too much attention to the media. They just went about their business and preparations.  

During and right after the storm there was plenty of coverage about downtown Naples, one of the most expensive areas of our town, and the mobile homes that truly suffered massive destruction just by default of the material they are built from. I have several friends that live in Golden Gate Estates, and I am not diminishing anyone’s loss, but there was not much mentioned about that area at all. Why was it important? This is where most of the locals live year round. They are supporting our town to make it the paradise destination it is for all of our seasonal residents and tourists. The majority of the homes in Golden Gate Estates have their own well and a septic. With no electricity for days, they were all without water. Because cell phone towers were devastated, none of them had a way to communicate with anyone. They weren’t even able to find out where the free water and ice was being handed out. 

Bottom line: The media doesn’t really show the true story but rather whatever sells. 

People are Good

Thanks to Irma, my faith in humanity has been restored. I was so happy and pleasantly surprised by all the help, smiles, and random acts of kindness showed before, during and after the storm. Strangers helping strangers - yes some of them were neighbors that would still be considered strangers because they never spoke with each other before the storm. Everyone asked, “What can I do for you?” There are tons of posts on Facebook about specific situations.  To some degree I am thankful for Irma to bring us all together. I just hope people will keep this attitude for a long time to come. 

And there's no way to forget the first responders and crews from across the country and even Canada who came to help people. From rescuing people from dangerous situations to helping get power back on, they went above and beyond. Some of them were a long way from home, and others were Naples locals, out there while their own homes were in chaos or destroyed. First responders have always amazed me, but in the face of Irma, I'm even more grateful.

People Do Care

I was surprised and humbled to have so many friends from near and far, literally all over the world, reach out to me before and after the hurricane. They said hi, made sure we were safe and offered to help in any way they could.  I felt a bit guilty. I don’t want to wait for a looming disaster to catch up with people I know care for and are important to me. In the aftermath of Irma, I made a commitment about it. So don’t be surprised if you hear from me soon with just a question of, “How are you? Is there anything I can help you with today?” 

Everything Twists - Even Hurricanes

One more important thing I learned is it doesn’t matter how well you prepare - there’s always a twist. We all worked hard to be ready for hurricane Irma. For the longest she was heading towards Miami. The last twist was straight for Naples. At that point, there was no use fighting anymore. 

Just like in our lives. There are always situations we sort of prepare for but at the last minute there is an unexpected twist. Sometimes the only option is to sit down in a safe place, and let the storm take it’s course. Once it’s all done, then it’s time to go out there, assess the damages, and begin cleaning up.

I know there was supposed to be five things but the last lesson is really important...

Cleaning up the mess is much easier with a cold beer.

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