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The Villages
Friday, November 4, 2022

Villagers learned hard lessons when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017

Villagers learned plenty of hard lessons when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017.

It was the last major hurricane to hit Florida’s Friendliest Hometown and prompted community development districts in The Villages to seek millions of dollars in reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There were three very important lessons learned when Irma hit in September 2017.

1. Don’t attempt to drive your golf cart through a flooded tunnel

It would seem to make sense that your golf cart would not fare well when traveling through a few feet of water and gunk left behind in the tunnels on the multi-modals paths in The Villages. But in obvious defiance of common sense, Villagers tried it any way.

Flooded Golf Cart Tunnel at Buena Vista Boulevard near Havana CC
A golf cart was stuck in a flooded tunnel in 2017 at Buena Vista Boulevard near Havana Country Club.

Thankfully, a Good Samaritan was frequently nearby and willing to wade into the water to push the stranded golf cart to higher, dryer ground.

Hurricane Irma Damage - Rick Medina helps push a fellow Villagers cart out of flooded tunnel
Rick Medina helps push a fellow Villager’s cart out of a flooded tunnel in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

2. Storm debris can become a major problem

In the weeks after Hurricane Irma, residents of The Villages were extremely frustrated that storm debris remained at the end of their driveways for weeks and weeks and weeks. The frustration led to midnight dumping of debris at recreation centers and postal stations. The problem was that the contractors hired by The Villages District Government headed to South Florida for more lucrative deals. Since 2017, District officials have tightened up contracts and now have a multi-layered approach, with multiple companies lined up for the work.

Debris from Hurricane Irma remained uncollected for weeks at homes in The Villages.
Plastic and paper bags were among Hurricane Irma debris dumped at Laurel Manor Recreation Center.

3. Don’t forget your friends and neighbors

The destruction of Irma was not felt evenly in The Villages. Residents of the newer areas of The Villages never lost power and had little debris from the massive storm. It was a far different story in the older areas of The Villages, in particular, the Historic Side. Residents lost power, which meant they had no air conditioning. The path leading to the golf cart bridge over U.S. Hwy. 27/441 was flooded and residents who relied on golf cart transportation were limited in their travels. And many residents’ homes were flooded.

The Villages Friendly Folks organized supplies for victims of Hurricane Irma

Days passed before The Villages Friendly Folks, fueled by the seemingly indifference to the plight of Villagers on the Historic Side, organized a purely volunteer outreach effort to provide relief to their fellow residents. The Community Emergency Response Team of The Villages also organized a door-to-door effort to check on the wellbeing of residents on the Historic Side of The Villages in the aftermath of Irma.

The Amenity Authority Committee stepped up with investments on the Historic Side including $400,000 in backup generators.

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