Stafford: Former Springfield resident shares Hurricane Ian story

Before Hurricane Ian arrived, I didn’t know that Estero, Fla., where my Springfield-born friend Jim Ingledue lives, sits in Lee County.

Most following the coverage even moderately know Lee as the county where about half the Floridians the storm killed so recently lived.

After riding out the landfall with son Kevin in the latter’s hurricane-resistant home, Ingledue, 87, used the comparison news reporters on tornado and hurricane scenes have heard ever since the microphone was invented.

But after saying a storm with 150 mph winds “sounds like a freight train coming,” he paused briefly and added, “through your house.”

The last major storm peeled the paint off one side of the house. This time, coming from a different direction, it peeled all the leaves from the trees and bushes that gamely tried to protect the place.

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While that was going on, one resident was like so many in the area: absolutely certain that the freight train was coming for him.

Eli, son Kevin’s 13-year-old dog, has “always been petrified of storms,” Ingledue said. “And when this thing hit, he jumped off of Kevin’s bed and somehow must have disrupted his spine or back, or maybe he even had a stroke. He’s just completely incapacitated.”

As of Tuesday, the animal hadn’t eaten for a week.

“He tries to drink water.”

A mobile veterinarian’s service was expected to arrive at 3 p.m. today to determine whether it’s best that Eli be to put to sleep.

Said Ingledue, “We don’t want him to suffer.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The dog has been Ingledue’s constant companion since he left Springfield and its Masonic Community after the death of his wife of 63 years, Beverle.

He and the animal have been a “a good team” on the many days his son strives to keep up with the demands of what in normal times is an uber-busy job, one that has just turned impossible.

He is the portfolio manager (boss) of Resort Property Management, the largest property management company in devastated Southwest Florida. The 475 emails he had received Monday only slightly outnumbered the 423 properties the company is involved in managing, and they include the dozen or so larger communities delegated to each of five area managers reporting to him.

The company’s website shows picture postcard images of the properties now likely to be featured in insurance claims. And that means Jim Ingledue will have describe his son not only as being “as busy as a one-armed paper hanger” but a such a paper hanger “with one arm tied behind his back.”

For example: In past storms communities the business manages have paid $100,000 or more just to have felled trees removed.

At the moment, Ingledue said, “There aren’t enough contractors to go around” – and certainly not enough to accommodate all who can send an email.

Power was out in the Ingledue home for about six days, which Jim said was “probably a good thing” because it temporarily spared his mood from images of destruction.

Still, he says what he saw in-person was just like the images you see on television: palm fronds going horizontal and a canal behind the house filling up to the point that it looked like a beachfront.

As for food, “If you like peanut butter sandwiches, you’ve got it made,” said Ingledue, who in the absence of milk has poured fruit juice on his morning cereal.

Jim Ingledue was slightly out of breath during our final conversation Tuesday. Although the storm had blown away the pool screen or lanai, it had also put a few chairs and other debris in the pool, and Ingledue had placed three rather than the usual one can out for the trash collectors.

He also described what so many of us who have spent time in the area have seen:

The mess on homey Sanibel Island, where the bridge is out, and the wildlife refuge established by cartoonist J.N. “Ding Darling” is beginning its recovery.

I think of the sandwich shop at Cape Coral where my wife fell in love with a Cuban sandwich after we’d walked through on the boardwalk at Four Mile Cove Ecological Park and visited the beach at now isolated Pine Island.

That area holds for us – and others – family memories:

  • of watching nephews’ enjoying spring training.
  • of the spacious house my brother rented for so little because Cape Coral then was devastated by the derivatives-driven financial crisis;
  • of my own special memory of leaving a sleeping family behind to walk Naples just after sunrise and enjoying an only slightly overpriced oatmeal with fruit and a cup of coffee at either or a Sheraton or a Hilton.

I’m sure there are more experiences like that in Florida’s future.

Still, the steady reports of rising sea levels sound a bit like a freight train in the distance.

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