Friday, September 17, 2004

George Mindling Column 9-17-2004

Something Good Out of Charley


While idly watching the local conditions on the Weather Channel, it dawned on me they were playing "Cast Your Fate to the Winds" as background music. We were in Georgia, waiting for the updates on Hurricane Ivan at the time, so the irony of the music was more than just a little pointed.

My friends in Miami sent me e-mail animations of the Hurricane Ivan track showing the hurricane cutting Florida completely off, leaving the seashore at the Georgia state line. And, of course, there's the current Internet favorite, postcards from Florida showing nothing but a huge photo of a hurricane cloud with a small arrow pointing to the middle saying, "We are here!"

Hurricane Charley's direct hit on Charlotte County put the fear of hurricanes into our local population more than any lecture, film or television show could possibly do. After Charley and the slow, agonizing week of watching Frances toy with us before passing close enough to flood our streets and byways, all it took was the 5 am. Friday NOAA Hurricane Ivan prediction chart showing another direct hit on Port Charlotte to be the catalyst for action as many of our residents said, "Enough! We are out of here!" We were among those that split for the hills of Georgia

To say we needed a breather is an understatement. We needed a chance to reflect on Florida and our lifestyle. That is when we began to get our sense of humor back. We stayed with our daughter and her husband in the rolling hills just south of Athens, Ga. Our daughter is a Georgia transplant thanks to Hurricane Andrew in Miami in 1992. She lost everything when her condo in Cutler Ridge blew apart like so many matchsticks. She did not return to Florida, finishing her college in Atlanta and joining the work force there.

Many in Port Charlotte may relocate elsewhere, but there will be those who stay. New people will move here. Some businesses closed permanently on August 13, 2004. Others will find a way, with good planning and insurance, even government help, to rebuild and reopen. They will not be the same as before. Now, during the rebuild, is the time to correct mistakes.

People are looking for something good to come out of Charley, although that is hard to say to someone who lost everything, perhaps even a loved one. Those who have been through these storms in the past know our community will be back It will be back better and stronger than before. No matter how badly someone was damaged, they say, "Oh, we got hit, but others had it worse than us ... "

Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda will finally be less of a group of relocated, and sometimes dislocated, northerners, banding together because they had no common experience in their new home. No matter how you did it up north, you didn't do it like Charley. The people of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda are starting to sound like Floridians.

George Mindling © 2004

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