Commentary: Marco Island chairman provides community update

By Larry Honig
Marco Island City Council chairman
Kristian Schomburg throws debris into a pile while cleaning up at the Snook Inn in Marco Island on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, two days after Hurricane Irma.

Marco Island came through Irma remarkably intact -- and with no loss of life. Most of the island still has no electricity, which is why the city has been unable to post regular updates on the website.

So let me talk to my fellow citizens through the newspaper and its website. I thank the Naples Daily News and for this public service.

Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) has indicated it expects gradual power restoration. My estimate based on progress to date and talking with LCEC executives is that most power will be back up by the weekend. As businesses get electricity they reopen, and they do business. We’re all eager to get a good meal in a cool place. 

Water service was restored Monday, although pressure will remain low until some pump repairs can be made at one of the plants. You can take a shower and do the dishes.

Larry Honig
Marco Island City Council

Gasoline is still scarce but becoming more available. I talked with Gov. Rick Scott, who has been tremendously helpful, on Monday night and emphasized that prior to the storm.

Marco Island was out of gasoline, and we needed to be resupplied so that our citizens can get back to their jobs and returning citizens can fill up. Our city government had the foresight to get a tanker truck for its own resupply.

Cell phone service remains poor and spotty. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is helping out with this. You can see the staging at the NCH site on Bald Eagle Drive at San Marco. We need full electricity restoration to achieve full cell phone capability.

Cable is nonexistent and it might take quite a while to get back to normal. There was significant infrastructure damage.

All roads are now fully passable and dry. The surge effects, which late Sunday inundated a portion of the island’s southeast quadrant, subsided quickly.

There is surprisingly little major structural damage on the island. Even older homes took a beating and came out well. Having said that, it would be rare to find any home or business without some damage. In the residential neighborhoods, virtually every house lost a few roof tiles, bushes or trees, attic soffit guards, and even pool cages.

Vegetation around the island has been devastated. Trees were either uprooted and toppled, or stripped of their leaves. Palm fronds are everywhere. Residents are urged to place their debris curbside (not in the street) for removal.

We will get through this as a community. Your fiscally conservative government has major hurricane reserves (in excess of state requirements). Our residents and businesses have shown their immense pride in Marco Island, and I know this will be manifested in a powerful recovery and rejuvenation.

In the aftermath of the storm, I’ve been out and about and am stunned by the ebullient and positive spirit of our citizens. Smiles outnumber frowns by 10 to one.

During and after the storm, more than 100 city employees from all departments served nearly round-the-clock in preparation, search and rescue -- seven persons were removed from a flooded house in the surge late Sunday -- and in cleanup.

On Monday morning the city’s crews had cleared almost all roads by 10:30 a.m., and the bridges were reopened to all.

We invited the Florida Highway Patrol and the Collier County Sheriff's Office to assist us for a period of time, in part to signal that Marco Island is a safe, secure community. You can see their cars around the island.

The beaches and estuaries showed the resilience of nature. The beaches are beautiful. The hotels survived and are ready to welcome tourists and conventions for the critical fall and winter seasons.

It’s not over, of course. But if you evacuated -- as we believe over 10,000 did -- when you return you will be surprised at how good the island looks.

You will be proud of your city’s employees for their preparation and recovery. And you will be happy to call this paradise “home.”

__ Larry Honig is chairman of the Marco Island City Council