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Best of SNO

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Hurricane Ian Affects the Marquette Community

Families+enjoy+the+beaches+in+Fort+Myers+prior+to+Hurricane+Ian.+The+hurricane+caused+damage+throughout+Southwest+Florida%2C+including+areas+like+Fort+Myers.
Mindy Walstra-Hummel
Families enjoy the beaches in Fort Myers prior to Hurricane Ian. The hurricane caused damage throughout Southwest Florida, including areas like Fort Myers.

Cate Sanazaro lived and taught preschool on Sanibel Island for eight years, and it’s where her children grew up.

She said she enjoyed the beaches, shelling, fishing and other outdoor activities unique to the island.

“The island revolves a lot around the wildlife. It’s a sanctuary,” Sanazaro said. “I’m sure a lot of people are wondering what happened to those facilities.”

Hurricane Ian and the damage done to Florida has had a widespread impact on the MHS community, as many students and teachers have either lived in areas affected, gone on vacation near Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, or have family that are in a dire situation.

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Sanibel has a rich long history of businesses and restaurants and places to go that you just expect to always be there when you go, It makes you feel like you’ve lost something that you can never go back to

— Cate Sanazaro

Sanazaro said the island is unique in how it was such a small community where, at the time she lived there, only 4,000 people lived there and many more were tourists.

“The people who actually lived there had their own unique sense of community that was more like a rural town,” Sanazaro said. 

She still has friends who live on the island.

“Sanibel has a rich long history of businesses and restaurants and places to go that you just expect to always be there when you go,” Sanazaro said. “It makes you feel like you’ve lost something that you can never go back to.”

Sanazaro said many of the people living on the island work in Fort Myers and have to cross the causeway that once connected to the mainland. The causeway collapsed in multiple locations during the hurricane.

Sanazaro has experienced an evacuation before during Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, and stayed in a hotel for several days in Fort Myers. The evacuation process was rather hectic and unorganized, she said.

Hurricane Andrew was a level two hurricane, whereas Ian was twice that when it reached Sanibel.

“We came back to a palm tree that fell across the driveway and a few missing shingles,” Sanazaro said. “I can’t imagine what a lot of people are coming back to, and finding their life literally washed away.”

Kenyon Alexander, Class of 1996, is a truck driver for a company closely connected with the Red Cross. The Red Cross dispatches them to deliver goods to areas in need of them, and he has made two trips down to areas affected by Hurricane Ian so far. 

We came back to a palm tree that fell across the driveway and a few missing shingles, I can’t imagine what a lot of people are coming back to, and finding their life literally washed away.

— Cate Sanazaro

“The first load down I took blankets, the next load was cleaning supplies, and my co-workers also took down cleaning supplies and blankets,” Alexander said.

Alexander said he has seen power outages, downed trees, downed power lines and flooding.

“A lot of the gas stations, the further south I got the power was out, and they were closed. A lot of restaurants, Burger Kings, they were closed,” Alexander said.

A lot of families were headed north as they left due to flooding, Alexander said.

“It almost looked like everyone was on vacation because they had a lot of things packed in their cars and vehicles,” Alexander said.

Alexander said he has also driven through fire to deliver supplies in California.

“Going down to Florida made me appreciate the fact that we don’t have to deal with this type of weather back home in St. Louis,” Alexander said. “I thank God for what he has blessed me with, where we are in life, and where I live in St. Louis.”

Jack Cason, junior, has been on vacation to Fort Myers beach twice, and has aunts, uncles and cousins who live in the area.

“The hotel I stayed at was completely underwater and everything I saw seemed destroyed. It looks like a completely different place,” Cason said. “It’s really sad because I have family that lives in the Fort Myers area, about an hour away and I know someone who lives in the Tampa Fort Myers area. A lot of their homes were lost.”

Cason said many of his family evacuated, while some of them stayed. He has heard from them that it has been devastating for the area with many homes destroyed and many photographs of theirs also destroyed in the flooding.

This story was originally published on Marquette Messenger on October 6, 2022.