Irma: One Year Later

By: Michael Knight

Just over one year ago, Irma tore through the Caribbean islands before smashing into the Florida coast. After devastating the Keys, the storm struck Collier County as a Category 3 hurricane with winds over 142 mph recorded in Naples. Several communities in the county suffered extensive damage, especially along the coast. 

Throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, 65 homes, including 44 mobile homes, were demolished, while 1,008 homes received major damage. Property damages in unincorporated areas alone reached about $320 million.  

More than 24,000 homes suffered some degree of damage, with almost 3,000 homes receiving major damage and 89 homes were outright destroyed. (View NEIC Report, See pages 47 - 55)

Rain and storm surges were another major concern with Irma. Inundation values were as high as 6-8 feet at Chokoloskee near the waterfront, with 3-5 feet across most of the island. Lee County was lashed by strong winds and heavy rainfall, which caused prolonged flooding in some areas, exacerbated by a particularly rainy August. Everglades National Park Gulf Visitor Center recorded 6 feet of water, with 2-4 feet of inundation throughout Everglades City, and peaks of 5 feet in a few 

areas. The south and eastern portions of Marco Island saw 2-4 feet of flooding, while the Naples waterfront saw 3-4 feet of inundation. The highest rainfall total was 

reported in Immokalee of 14.48” (See Fig. 1), while most other areas that had rainfall in the 10-14-inch range, including portions of inland and central Collier.

This is just a glimpse at the impact Irma had on Collier, and the county is still recovering. One year later and our Disaster Case Management program still has over 2,200 requests for help in the month of August alone. The top three needs logged in these requests were health insurance assistance, floor repairs, and roof repairs; difficulties that these callers have been struggling with since Irma hit last year. United Way, with your donations, was able to bring over $70,000 to those families, but 

there are many more who desperately need that help.

At United Way, we have been working non-stop since Irma made landfall, and we were stunned at how swiftly our community came together. Since September of 2017, United Way has mobilized over $6.7 million in relief aid for Collier County. Just this August we were able to secure a massive $2.7 million grant, which is being used to bring free Wi-Fi to students in these affected communities. Every donation, no matter the amount, can make a difference.  

We partnered with Salvation Army to alleviate the crushing burden that insurance deductibles were having on the hardest hit families, and we created the Home and Automotive Insurance Deductible Assistance Program as part of Operation: Lasting Hope.

Overall, damage in the county totaled over $850 million, and those numbers were calculated only a month after Irma by the National Centers for Environmental Information. It has been over a year since Irma left an indelible mark on Collier County, and for many in the hardest hit areas, that mark is as present as it was the day after landfall. We can’t express how proud we are to be part of a community that is devoted to bringing these people back from the brink of financial instability.

Below are some links where you can find more information about our programs, services, and ways to donate.

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“Thousands of local citizens have been affected by Hurricane Irma UWCC has been working tirelessly and will continue to stand ready to help those in need. As we continue down the path to recovery, I am encouraged by the resilience of our community coming together and getting through this trying time.” – Steve Sanderson, CEO of United Way Collier County

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Additional Links:

Operation Lasting Hope

Donation Page