After Hurricane Ian, a low-lying Florida city starts to rebuild. Should it?
In one of the most important stories on a small, under-heralded Florida town ever told, The New York Times has published a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in the small city of St. Marks, a hundred miles west of Tampa. Though the hurricane destroyed the city’s iconic lighthouse—which had been the subject of two movies—the article also includes a behind-the-scenes description of how St. Marks plans to rebuild.
There were no large earthquakes or buildings crumbling. Instead, the buildings were washed away. But there was no water rising on the streets. There were no fires, because the rain had fallen. There was no looting. Instead, the local government worked with disaster workers of the Red Cross. But there was no “worse case scenario,” as the mayor of St. Marks put it.
As you read the story, you can feel the palpable sense of sadness. Perhaps you will feel that same sadness at the loss of many other small Florida communities—not rebuilt, but not left to face a long and uncertain future.
What did they do? The city started by creating disaster teams of volunteer doctors, nurses, and others who would help the community in its hour of need. The city’s first-responder was the St. Marks Volunteer Fire Department, and the first person on the scene was a man named Jimmy Ewing. The day before the hurricane, his house was washed away and he and his wife were stranded on their boat in the middle of the river.
Ewing was there when the city was bombed and destroyed in the days after Hurricane Andrew, but he didn’t have a storm shelter. No, he and his wife built it themselves during nights of darkness. The roof was made of tin and plywood and the walls were made from plastic sheets.