Monster hurricane spares David Hart’s family home
Bermuda resident David Hart was still reeling on Friday, after Hurricane Ian brought catastrophic winds to his home state of Florida on Wednesday.
Mr Hart, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, moved to Bermuda a year ago.
“I am a sixth-generation Floridian,” he said. “We have a house in Tallahassee. My wife and son are there. I have spent the last five days glued to the weather reports.”
At one point, weather experts were predicting that Tallahassee - the state’s capital city - would be directly in the storm’s path.
“But each day the track ticked further south down the coast,” Mr Hart said.
The storm was near Category 5 strength with winds of 150 miles per hour when it first came ashore near Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Lee County, Florida.
It was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit southwest Florida in recorded history. Heavy rainfall combined with storm surge also brought flooding to many areas.
“Lake Wales, about 30 minutes from where I grew up in Winter Haven, had more than 17 inches of rain,” Mr Hart said.
Tallahassee was spared, and his family in Winter Haven, Polk County, also avoided the worst of the storm. In fact, Tallahassee is receiving a cash injection from the hordes of evacuees from other nearby towns.
“It is amazing how nature works,” Mr Hart said. “My wife said it was actually a nice day in Tallahassee.”
But other parts of Florida were destroyed.
“My sister just wrote me to say that the brother of my brother-in-law, lost everything,” he said. “I have heard that many deaths have been recorded, and that number will probably only grow in the next couple of days. We don’t know the worst of it yet.”
It has been heartbreaking for him to see the media images of destruction.
The causeway between Sanibel Island and Captiva Island was destroyed in five different sections.
“That is a structure of concrete and steel,” he said. “I can’t fathom how a bridge so strong could be taken down like that. And Sanibel is such a beautiful island.”
At least two people died on Sanibel and dozens more had to be rescued.
Mr Hart heard that one of his favourite seafood restaurants, the South Beach Bar & Grill in Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, about 25 miles northwest of Sanibel, had been taken down to its foundations.
“It looked like a bomb went off,” Mr Hart said. “It will be weeks and months for some of these communities to get back to normal.”
He said many people in Bermuda have reached out to him with kind words, hugs and prayers, which he appreciates greatly.
“Moments like this really highlight how important the relationship is between Bermuda and Florida,” he said. “Starting on Thursday morning, I know that many people in Bermuda have been involved in making sure that reinsurance capital was flowing back to Florida to help people there get their lives back together. It shows you how important Bermuda is as a risk capital.”