Remembering Irma

Marshall graduates thankful to have homes

A week after Hurricane Irma brought fear to residents of the southern Florida coasts, people are relieved the results weren’t worse.

Marshall graduates who live in what was Irma’s predicted path expected a possible Category 5 hurricane, the most destructive ranking. They were relived when Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm. Later when they returned home they were thankful that damage was mostly limited.

Jill Buysse McCullers and her family evacuated the Cape Coral area on Sept. 9. They traveled to the North Cape to stay with relatives.

She said Irma made landfall the next day, the same day of the year that historic Hurricane Donna landed on the coast in 1960.

Signs of moderate storm damage became worse as they drove south toward home on Sept. 11.

“Many homes and businesses were without power,” McCullers said. “It was eerie driving without street lights. We saw some downed trees. It didn’t look like there was structural damage to the buildings.”

At home they had only minor tree damage. Water was covering their dock but did not come close to the house.

“It was pretty emotional to leave home knowing that after the storm it might not be there,” she said. “I thought about our possessions, the sentimental things that we couldn’t take with us. We’ve been inconvenienced by not having water, heat, or power; but I’ll take that any day because we have a home to come back to.”

Many people, including some with Marshall area ties, posted messages online to let everyone know they were safe. Some even posted pictures with a sun-filled sky in the days after the storm cleared.

Suzie Kangas Stokke and her husband, Darin, evacuated the Fort Myers area on Sept. 7. They traveled to Alabama to find that motel rooms were hard to find and continued north to Tennessee.

“We were supposed to be right at the center of it,” Suzie said. “We were afraid and concerned. We knew that no matter what happened we’d still have our family.”

While keeping track of the storm, they watched the Vikings game Sept. 11 and returned home the next day. They found “quite a bit” of damage in the Fort Myers area, including many downed trees.

At home, storm water outside was backed up to their knees and fish were swimming in it.

Power was restored to their business on Wednesday and later restored to their home.

“Not knowing what might happen or what we might find afterward was difficult,” she said. “It was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through. We’re glad it turned out as well as it did.”