As you are aware, Hurricane Irma came ashore in the Florida Keys before turning N/NW and running up the West Coast, making landfall again at Marco Island, just north of Everglades City. The devastation from wind and storm surge was extensive in the Keys and in Southwest Florida. NCOBS staff has been working to establish “boots on the ground” and to determine next steps with respect to all three of our base camps – Key Largo, Everglades City (Sunset Island) and Scottsmoor.
Here is what we know:
First and foremost, everyone is safe. NCOBS, even when Irma was forecast to go up the East Coast of Florida, took the opportunity to evacuate staff from all base camps. Some weathered the storm out of state and all have returned to their homes, as of this morning only one staff member is still without power.
Our Key Largo location (in the upper Keys) appears to have escaped any damage other than significant debris in the yard. It has water and power, though is under a boil water advisory.
Our Scottsmoor base camp in central Florida also escaped significant damage. It has power and water but will need a major culvert replaced. Staff is at the base camp finishing up cleanup and conducting a survey of the course area. The base is operating and we expect to be fully operational for our next course scheduled to start on September 22. Many thanks to the staff for the extra effort in getting NCOBS ‘back in business’ at Scottsmoor.
Our Everglades City base camp (Sunset Island), which was closed for the season, took an almost direct hit from Irma when it swung north up the Florida Coast. Everglades City is remote and, after the storm, was initially cut off due to flooding. Our first piece of information came Sept 12 via aerial footage provided by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office which showed extensive flooding in the city and on both sides of the Barron River. Yesterday morning NOAA released post-storm satellite images of the affected area. Zooming in on this satellite imagery, we were able to make a preliminary assessment. The primary structures are all standing with apparently intact roofs. There is damage but nowhere near as catastrophic as it could have been. We currently have staff in route to the base to conduct a more in-depth assessment. We do anticipate being operational for our first courses of the season in early November.
Storms like Irma offer us the chance to reflect on the fragility of our place on the planet and also offer us the opportunity to come together, and to show the strength of our community. Our property is damaged, but our team is safe. While we cannot unmake the damage the storm has inflicted, we can and will work together rebuild what we have today, so that we can provide a safe environment for students and staff tomorrow.