On September 10, 2017, category four Hurricane Irma came barreling through Southwest Florida bringing with it torrents of water and 80+ mile per hour winds. The days leading up to the extremely powerful storm were fraught with urgent weather updates, government warnings to get out of town, and hasty preparations to gather enough food, water and flashlights to manage the aftermath. Many Bonita Springs residents fled, braving bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-75, or frantically boarding the last flights out of the local airport.
For a group of residents at The Terraces at Bonita Springs, however, the experience was very different. John and Dorothy, Mike and Kathie, Sheila, and Joanne shared their stories and told us why if they had to do it all over again, they would do it the same way – shelter in place at The Terraces at Bonita Springs. The common theme? A sense of calm, a feeling of security, and a wealth of gratitude to their fellow residents and the staff at The Terraces at Bonita Springs.
John & Dorothy
When they heard about the impeding hurricane, the couple decided to leave for North Carolina. After arranging hotel reservations and renting a car, they realized that they had hesitated too long, and the best decision would be to stay. Since they live on the first floor they piled their furniture as high as it would go in the event of a surge, grabbed their new puppy Spencer, and headed up to stay with a friend on the fifth floor. Luckily for their friend, they were able to stay in his apartment which is on the northeast area of the building and had major water intrusion. Working as a team they were able to protect his furniture and rugs by spending the night wringing out towels thus preventing the water from intruding into his apartment. Luckily, the surge didn’t come, but the powerful winds from the northeast caused flood waters to come in from the north door on the first floor of the building, but thanks to the maintenance associates they were able to contain the water coming in before it reached their apartment.
Sheila tells us that her first sense of relief came when she learned that she would not have to evacuate and possibly be separated from her husband, a resident in the skilled nursing section of The Terraces. She says she would never leave him.
“The staff took great care of him. Thankfully they had generators, and I never had to worry about him being without power,” said Sheila.
Sheila spent her time with friends on the 5th floor, all enjoying her specially prepared peach daiquiris. She was able to power up her cell phone on the first floor so she could communicate via text to her four children up north. She tells us that The Terraces staff continually updated their Facebook page, and even set up a hotline for worried relatives to check in on them.
When asked if she was scared, Sheila said, “Not for a minute. This building is like a fortress. Plus, the maintenance crew did a fabulous job of preparations to make us feel comfortable. We felt very lucky and actually had a lot of fun.”
Mike & Kathie
Unlike John and Dorothy, Mike and Kathie decided from the first forecast that unless there were mandatory evacuations, they would stay. Too risky, thought Mike, to get out on I75 and try to get away. They knew that The Terraces would make the right decision about evacuation based on county and state requirements. In fact, The Terraces had already hired a fleet of buses standing at the ready in the parking lot just in case a mandatory evacuation came through. “The staff gave us updates three times a day – they could not have done more.”
Mike and Kathie used their pre-hurricane time to prepare for “Party Central,” inviting close friends in the community for nonstop beverages and refreshments throughout the storm. They wanted to create a “safe haven” where guests could come and go, relax, and spend time with friends.
Following the aftermath, Mike shared his experience in a letter to the Naples Daily News:
“Outstanding care during hurricane: We have lived in Bonita Springs for 27 years. We have experienced many summer tropical storms and endured Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Charley in our previous home. We now live at The Terraces in Bonita Springs.
Our experience in staying here during Hurricane Irma can only be described as feeling completely safe in a building specifically designed to withstand the torrent that Irma gave us. But of even more significance was the outstanding work, care and effort exhibited by the entire staff. They could not have done more to ensure our safety and well-being.
The Terraces brought the entire staff and their families in to stay throughout the storm. Many of the staff’s families also volunteered to assist in whatever way they could. All of us, residents as well as staff and families, had wonderful meals each and every day. Our well-being was their primary concern even as they faced probable damage to their own homes. Thank you, one and all.
Many thanks also to the entire management team here at The Terraces for the great planning and execution they did for the hurricane. We feel very fortunate to have chosen
The Terraces for our life care plan.” – Kathie and Mike Lyons, Bonita Springs
As one of the guests at “Party Central,” Joanne says she was happy staying home partying with her friends. Others had tried to convince her to leave, but she knew she would be safe at The Terraces. “I never worried,” she says.
Joanne felt safe knowing that the president of SantaFe, The Terraces’ parent company, drove in to stay with them. Several staff members also weathered the storm at The Terraces – along with their families, many dogs, cats, and even a potbelly pig.
When asked where all these animals did “their business,” Joanne tells us that the staff put sod in the concrete stairwells so no one would have to go outside. “They thought of everything,” she says.
“Everyone was so relaxed,” Joanne concludes. “We could charge our cell phones in the multi-purpose room, and most of us didn’t even hear the storm. The only downside was that power was out in the upstairs apartments for about five days, but we all made the best of it. I wore a miner’s light so I could read.”
About the food…
The residents could not say enough about how great the meals were, rave reviews all around. They agreed that the Chef and his staff did a phenomenal job, even bringing meals to each apartment the first night. After that, they would gather together downstairs for amazing gourmet selections throughout the day. In addition, Chef made special pastries each morning to have with their coffee, and facilitated a pastry-making class for a fun activity.
A sense of community…
The phrase “everyone came together” resonated as the residents shared their stories. They reminisced about how they joined together to eat and drink, to help other residents, to talk, and to laugh. At one point after the storm, they even helped get one of their neighbors, a dialysis patient, to the hospital – together, they saved his life.
When asked what they would do in the event of another hurricane, all agreed that they would absolutely stay at home at The Terraces again unless required by the government to leave. They felt that they fared better than some fellow residents who spent 10 or more hours on the road, only to find that their hotel reservations had fallen through.
From friends at nearby communities, they learned that many had to live in hotel rooms for five weeks or more, with so much damage that they could not go home.
Today, the hurricane survivors at The Terraces at Bonita Springs celebrate a unique camaraderie. During Hurricane Irma, they shared a secure, relaxed atmosphere as calm as the eye of the storm. Residents and staff joined together to face one of the fiercest hurricanes of the century, and came through it stronger than ever.