Drone video shows hurricane Irma's damage to Goodland, a small community along the water in Southwest Florida. USA TODAY NETWORK
Goodland took the brunt of Hurricane Irma. The storm surge that was threatened in other places was a reality here, with three feet of water flooding the inside of Stan’s Idle Hour, and 120-plus mile per hour winds tore apart homes and snapped trees like matchsticks.
Nearly two weeks after the storm passed, the community continues to dig itself out from the aftermath. Mounds of destroyed carports, screen enclosures and roofs line the streets of the previously picturesque village, along with the trunks and branches of hundreds of trees that shaded the homes and helped give Goodland its laidback, tropical vibe.
Gumbo limbo and banyan, oak, schefflera and palms went from providing a canopy to breaking into homes, and now sit next to piles of ruined furniture, appliances and possessions awaiting as yet unscheduled pickup.
Doreen Seeger of the Goodland Civic Association said she had been touched, nearly overwhelmed, by the response from people living elsewhere. As she stood in the headquarters of the association at 417 Mango Ave. on a recent afternoon, a steady trickle of visitors came by, dropping off supplies in a grassroots, “people to people” relief effort.
“The response has been incredible. There’s hardly any place to put more stuff” at the civic center, she said. “People we don’t even know, not rich but who just have big hearts, have helped out in so many ways. Some people bought refrigerators or hot water heaters” to replace those ruined by floodwaters.
At Stan’s Idle Hour, owner Steve Gober showed the mark at about belt level where the water had come up into the building. They are pressure cleaning, ripping out floors, gutting and remodeling much of the interior, and plan to reopen the first weekend of November, he said.
Fifth generation fisherman Douglas Doxsee was busy at Kirk Fish Company, and said the crabbers would be ready for stone crab season to begin on schedule Oct. 15.
“The crab traps are heavy, 40 or 50 lbs. each, and they didn’t go anywhere in the storm,” he said, and the crabbing fleet floated behind the store, looking ready to go.
Longtime Goodland residents George Vellis and Tara O’Neill suffered massive damage to their home and Tara’s art studio, including mud from the storm surge, downed trees and roof damage.
“We had 45 inches of water. Everyone has their washers and dryers out on the street. A lot of people have terrible damage, but Goodland will be okay. Goodland will always be okay,” said resident Elaine Ritchie. “People here are resourceful. Everybody’s helping each other.”
“This isn’t just an island – it’s a community,” said Noreen Seeger.