GOODLAND, Fla. - As Florida begins to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma, residents of some small communities want the public to know that it’s not only large cities like Miami or Tampa that were hit hard by the storm.
“We’re less than a dot on the map,” Kelly Kirk told HuffPost. Kirk and her parents are the owners of Kirk Fish Company, a retail and wholesale seafood company in Goodland, which has about 400 year-round residents. “So it’s easy to look at big cities that are highly populated and see that, and it’s not as easy to see us down here,” she added.
Goodland lies on the southeastern corner of Marco Island, which is located in the Gulf off the coast of Southwest Florida. It’s a small community that has traditionally been a fishing village, and now also has a significant population of retirees.
Irma hit the community on Sunday, causing extensive damage. As of Wednesday, there was no electricity and cellphone service was spotty. Residents were told it could take up to two weeks to restore power. Officials were attempting to get the town’s water back up and running.
Powerlines stretched across the streets, trees on top of houses and cars. Many of the streets were still covered in mud, a remnant of the flooding from Irma. Some residents had up to 4 feet of water in their homes. Many houses had damaged roofs and broken windows
Kirk said that her family’s fleet of fishing boat survived the storm, but the damage to the business was extensive.
“Everything inside our building was flooded, she said. “All of our compressors, all four display cases, our cooker that we cook the stone crabs with.” An antenna that the business had used to communicate with fishermen at sea was “in a big pile of rubble out front.”
Resident Jay McMillen was one of the few who opted to stay in town and ride out the storm — citing a need to take care of not only his physical property, but also his dogs and a fish tank. McMillen said Irma was probably the 10th or 11th hurricane he’s been through,
“I sort of knew what to prepare for,” he said. “Everything but the storm surge ... I didn’t realize how massive and how pretty intense [it would be.]”
Those preparations included stocking up on gas and having a generator ready.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the only house with air conditioning on Goodland right now,” he added.
Another resident, Renee Nadolink, evacuated for the storm and came back to find her home severely damaged.
“Every tree in Goodland seems to be in my yard and overturned,” she said. “I just really wish we could get power back and get back to normal.”
Getting air conditioning back on quick is crucial to prevent even more problems inside waterlogged homes, she said.
“It’s hot, we need power,” she said. “Everything’s going to mildew.”
In the meantime, the local community is pulling together to help each other get through the aftermath.
Denis and Lisa Meurgue, who own the Bistro Soleil restaurant in the city of Marco Island, met up with Naples Glass and Aluminum owner Kevin Flynn to distribute food from the restaurant to anyone who needed it. Denis Meurgue estimated they, and other volunteers, had served between 200 and 250 people.
Kirk also said that “local resources” have been helpful and that many customers of her family’s business have been checking up on them.
“[There’s an] outpouring of people coming in,” she said. “Our friends are all here helping us, our local community is here helping us. Everyone’s doing their best and we’re all kind of picking up together and putting it all back in pieces. And that’s all we can do.”