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Steven Grober, now the owner of Stan's Idle Hour, recalls the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew 25 years later. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

Steven Gober, owner of Stan's Idle Hour, recalls the trauma of Hurricane Andrew 25 years later

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When Steven Gober drove toward his father’s restaurant, Stan’s Idle Hour, on the morning of Aug. 25, 1992, he didn’t know what to expect.

Once he rounded the corner, as soon as he laid eyes on his father’s pride and joy, his heart broke.

“It was like, ‘Oh, my god,’ ” he recalled. “The first thing we noticed was the roof was gone, and there was about 2½ feet of water through and through.”

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Hurricane Andrew tore across southern Florida in late August 1992. After devastating Homestead, it roared off the west coast of the state just south of Goodland the morning of Aug. 24 and left the small fishing village in ruins.

Goodland was submerged under 6 to 7 feet of storm surge. Winds were recorded on nearby Marco Island at 135 mph. Overall, Collier County had an estimated $30 million in damage from the horrific storm that caused a total of $1.3 billion in damage across Florida and killed dozens of people.

Gober, who was 26 at the time, evacuated to Lakeland with his four young boys but, like several Goodland residents, his father, Stan, hunkered down. When Steve Gober returned the next day, he was shocked and dismayed by the extent of the damage to the town.

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“It was the first hurricane I had ever been through,” he said. “Everything was torn up. I remember there were WaveRunners and canoes going up and down the street, that’s how flooded it was; you could canoe down the street right here in front of Stan’s.”

Amazingly, the restaurant’s chickee hut bar and even some of the old license plates that decorated its walls and ceilings were still standing, and at a place like Stan’s where the bar is the heart and soul of the establishment, it served as a sign of hope.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” Gober said. “To have a hurricane blow through here and still have license plates on the walls? It was just crazy.”

Still, there was plenty of work to be done, so much, in fact, that it was difficult to determine what to tackle first. Eventually, Gober, his dad and two brothers decided to start with the simplest thing they could think of: piling up all the rubble.

After that the family began cleaning up the inches of mud left by the flooding; it was a full week before they finally saw the wood floors, which were twisted and warped from the water. Then they focused on replacing the roof; thankfully, it was covered by their insurance — an incredible stroke of good luck in the wake of misfortune.

“My dad bought Stan’s in 1969 … and he decided he didn’t want insurance (because) he thought it was a scam; that’s just the way he was,” Gober said. “Well, I kept bugging him and bugging him and bugging him (about getting insurance), so finally he got insurance just six months prior to Hurricane Andrew.”

Gober and his family worked on fixing up the restaurant 12 to 14 hours every day, and after nearly three weeks, Stan’s was up and running.

“If we couldn’t open, then we couldn’t survive,” he said. "So it was traumatizing and a lot of work. We were just happy to get through it, (and) we all just jumped in as a family.”

Of course, in Goodland, "family" doesn’t just mean flesh and blood; it means the entire community.

“Everybody was wonderful. Everybody jumped in (and said,) ‘If you need anything, just call us,’ or ‘If you need anything, I’m right down the street.’ So everybody jumped together and that was a good thing,” Gober said. “And there’s still people who talk about it … to this day, saying, ‘Remember when Hurricane Andrew hit?’ ’’

And Gober does remember. Even though it was 25 years ago, he remembers like it was yesterday, and that’s why he doesn’t breathe easy until the end of November, when hurricane season is over.

“In August, September and October, every night I watch the news at 5 o’clock and I’m watching the tropics … because the last thing we want is another hurricane in Goodland,” he said. “We worry about it every summer.”

Despite his concern for the restaurant that has become a sort of living monument to his father, who died in 2012, Gober knows that the most important thing people can do when a hurricane is approaching is to get themselves and their loved ones to safety.

“People say they want to stay, but I always tell people that live in Goodland if you’ve got a storm that’s 125 mph, that’s going to hit Goodland, get out,” he said. “Do not stay here. You need to not worry about your businesses because at the end of the day, it’s more important for you to survive. You can always rebuild. It may not be the greatest thing you want to do, but you can always rebuild.”

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