Everglades City businesses beginning to re-open after Irma damage

Posted at 7:35 PM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-29 19:51:18-04

Businesses are slowly starting to re-open in Everglades City, one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Irma two and a half weeks ago. Irma pushed several feet of storm surge water into the town, leaving a thick layer of mud everywhere - inside homes and businesses.

Employees - many of whom are life-long residents of the small town - say they are anxious to start bringing in some much-needed income.

 "Of course the businesses have got to come up for the community to have jobs to go to," said Tina Marie Hickok, an employee at the restaurant City Seafood on Begonia Street. "To be able to have the income to help with our home life."

City Seafood re-opened for business Thursday with a limited menu. Hickok's co-worker Donna Vanleeuwen is relieved to be back at work, after spending weeks cleaning mud out of the restaurant.

"The whole place was completely full of mud," Vanleeuwen said. "We've been spraying and bleaching and using vinegar (to remove mold) and everything, trying to just get it back up and running so that we could have a job."  

A few doors down at Speedy's Airboat Tours, Tod Johnson and his crew re-opened Friday, after shoveling and power-washing mud out of his business's building and fixing boats. 

"We were back up and running two or three days after (Hurricane) Wilma," Johnson said. "And it's taken weeks now."

Despite the setback, he said Irma has taught the community a lot about each other.

"It tends to grow us a little stronger together," Johnson said. "We kind of bond, and whoever needs help here and there, we try to give it."

"Everybody has just joined in together and helped each other," Vanleeuwen added. "That's been amazing to watch."

There's still a great need in the area for supplies and housing assistance. To find out how to help with donations, the Facebook page Everglades City Strong is a good resource. It also lists businesses that are open, and which ones plan to open soon.