Tuesday, September 12, 2017

After Hurricane Irma - Fort Myers, Florida

Boca Grande Wedding Church

 While it doesn't take a hurricane for me to go on about how much I love my home state of Florida, it certainly didn't hurt.... I have spent the past week preaching to everyone who will listen how incredible my beloved Florida is and especially my little corner in SWFL. Fort Myers and all of Florida have been making the news throughout the entire country as Hurricane Irma directed her wrath at my people. I skated out a few days before it made landfall and headed to my second home in Iowa. It was an incredibly emotional few days watching the storm from afar and feeling helpless. My list of concerns was endless, from all of the people who stayed behind, my friends, my family (who represent every corner of the state), my modest little home in Fort Myers that I bought when I was 24 years old and have invested my soul into, to the possibility of flooding and storm surge that could ruin a lifetime of memories packaged into that little house. Although I wavered on how eminent I felt it was, even the slimmest possibility of loss seemed overwhelming. Having lived in Florida through hurricanes Charlie and Wilma, I know all too well how devastating a hurricane can be. After Charlie I had friends who were left homeless and all of SWFL suffered through an economy that took years to rebound. Florida felt effects that went on well beyond what the national news covered.

The full extent of damage done by Irma is still unknown, however I am counting my blessings as I write this because my friends and family, as well as their homes, are all safe. My home was a trooper again and kept every shingle in place and the 50 or so trees on my property even managed to stay strong. I definitely feel like prayers were answered.

With most fears behind me and the hurricane having passed I have a very specific request for everyone who wants to offer help. If you want to help Florida, go to Florida.... I mean, not today necessarily unless you are ready to get to work. But in the coming months if not weeks, plan that trip to Florida. Hit the beaches on Sanibel Island, plan that destination wedding for Boca Grande. For over a year after Hurricane Charlie I saw a huge decline in families that were doing beach vacations and clients planning destination weddings. While SWFL had recovered, most businesses had reopened and things looked as stunning as ever, vacationers avoided the region. That had an impact on my business, Impressions Photography, and so many other local business that depend on tourism. As Hurricane Irma has now passed, the clean up efforts will move swiftly. Hotels, such as La Playa in Naples and Tween Waters on Captiva Island have already announced plans to open in the coming days. Our beaches are still stunning, our people are still among the best in the service industry and although our vegetation might be a little more sparse, Florida is still the best vacation destination there is! As I talk to people here in the Midwest, I think there is a misunderstanding about how soon we will be able to welcome tourists again. Florida will be ready quickly. The best thing you can do for Florida is to start planning and go to Florida.

And of course, giving to charities that help hurricane victims is undoubtedly something we should all do. I'm a huge supporter of UNICEF and had the pleasure of participating in their national convention earlier this year. I absolutely trust the organization to do amazingness with every dollar they receive. They will be helping with communities internationally that were effected by Irma. There are tons of other great charities that are working locally too. That financial support, especially for the harder hit areas like the Keys, along with continued tourism will have Florida back in business in no time. #FloridaStrong

boca grande churchBoca Grande Ligthhouse wedding

I included few pictures I took on Boca Grande just last week. I hear that most of the island withstood the storm and even the Gasparilla Inn which was doing some renovations while I was there looks to have stood strong. I'm photographing a wedding at the Inn in a few weeks I will definitely be reporting back on how everything looks then.

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