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Waiting game: Locals still dealing following hurricane

September 20, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

It has been over a week since Hurricane Irma's wind and rain tore through Lehigh Acres, causing flooding and damage to houses, and many residents are still dealing with the effects and chaos.

Richard Harpe, of 912 Henry Ave., was busy cleaning his pool of debris on Sept. 17 while yard workers raked the leaves and branches that had engulfed his property. His yard has many tall trees on it, and a couple of them fell within feet of his house.

"You should've seen this pool," Harpe said. "I've been working on it all morning."

Article Photos

A sign off of Unice Avenue North asks for power.

He was amazed at how quickly his place was cleaned up. One of the tall pine trees on his property released several branches, which ripped through his lanai, but Harpe had that fixed right away.

"I didn't expect to get my place cleaned up this quick," he said. "All this has been replaced. All brand new screens in there."

Harpe watched the whole scene unfold during the hurricane.

"I seen that tree fall. I seen the branches fly into the pool cage," he said. "Unbelievable."

Harpe did not want to leave his home because he had faith that it would not be bad.

"It is what it is. You can't change it," he said. "You put your faith in God."

As the rain fell, the Harns Marsh Preserve filled up and flooded the surrounding streets. Kyle Dewey, of 3319 38th St. W., lives adjacent to the area. He described the scene that unfolded following Irma.

"The water was ridiculous," Dewey said. "The water was all the way up to the mailbox. The water came up after the storm hit."

His house sits atop of a small hill, but the flooding reached his door and entered his garage.

Despite being flooded in, Dewey was still mobile.

"I had a boat," he said. "I could pick people up down off Sunshine. I had to pick up my family members. They could only get to the end of the road by vehicle."

The flooding stopped Sept. 14.

Not expecting Lehigh to get the eye of the hurricane, Dewey stayed to ride out the storm.

"I figured it go closer to the coastline," he said.

Dewey knows what he needs to prepare for the next hurricane.

"I'll have a lot more sandbags," he said. "I don't know if I'll be sitting here."

As of this past weekend, electricity was still out for many people in Lehigh, but more homes and businesses are coming back on the grid. On Sept. 17, the Knights of Columbus Council 6265 set up at Two Knights Market and Deli to hand out free pork, Spanish rice, water and ice to those in need.

"A lot of people are asking for ice and water," member Alain Capucci said. "That's the concern. A lot of people with no power. So other churches are dropping ice over here for us."

Only one hour into the three-hour window, they had given out 700 meals.

Member Richard Salyers' family faced its own problems during Irma. Salyers, of 206 Arthur Ave., explained that his wife, Mindy, has ALS and diabetes. Losing power was a major concern because she needs good air conditioning and the insulin required to manage her condition must be refrigerated.

"When it's hot - it got up to 92 degrees in the house, even when we had fans - it was very stressful on her because her ALS was flaring up," he said. "Her diabetes the sugars were so high. It's a battle."

Salyers did get plenty of help from his community.

"(My friend) had a generator for me," he said. "I ran the generator, kept the one refrigerator on, and my neighbor, I ran a cord to him because he had a little girl."



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