How an island
came together ...
November/December 2017 GASPARILLA ISLAND 21
By Friday the interstate and secondary roads of
Florida were congested with cars full of people.
Some decided to stay put, even though predicsted
storm surge levels were climbing not by
inches, but by feet.
But where do you go when almost the entire
state of Florida is under the cone of probability?
If the surge doesn’t get you the high winds and
tornadoes that can spawn from hurricanes could,
whether you’re on the coast or not. It was an odd
feeling, and a confirmation of the fact that living
on a very long peninsula means you only a few
roads to choose from to escape.
Many of the people who spent a few hundred
dollars on “hurricane groceries” on Friday were
packing up and leaving on Saturday. The warnings
were too dire, the storm was too big to ignore
On Friday, Sept. 8 mandatory evacuations were
called for Zone A – all coastal zones and barrier
islands – as winds from Hurricane Irma were
being clocked at 160 mph sustained with gusts up
to 195. On Saturday, Sept. 9 a mandatory evacuation
was declared for Zone B, which encompasses
most of the Cape Haze Peninsula.
When the Boca Grande Fire Department
announced all emergency equipment and personnel
would be evacuating Gasparilla Island that
Saturday night, things became very real for the
residents who remained. It was the first time in
the department’s official history that they had to
leave the island and head for higher ground.
After that things became a blur for most of us.
Irma took a turn more inland at the very last
minute, with her eye traveling over Arcadia after
making landfall at Marco Island. She almost
destroyed some places in Cuba, there were 13
reported dead in the Caribbean, and many parts