Goodwill reopens a year after severe Hurricane Irma damages

A call about water coming into the parking lot had John Nadeau, the vice president of operations at Goodwill, rushing to protect his store the night Hurricane Irma hit Island Park.

“It was just kind of surreal watching the water keep coming and coming and coming,” Nadeau said. “We brought in about 10 or 15 guys, got every shop bag we could find and we had shop bags at every corner of the store, trying to keep the water out.”

But the water was relentless. It just keep coming, damaging everything in sight inside the non-profit store. The building had to be closed for two weeks already due to previous flooding issues.

Hurricane Irma brought severe wind and storm surge damage to SWFL, most heavily in areas closest to the coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates costs for the devastation that Hurricane Irma caused at approximately $50 billion, excluding non-US territories.

From an aerial view following Hurricane Irma, a person would see blue tarp covering the roofs of dilapidated homes and businesses for miles, in the Island Park community.

Insurance claims were slowly processed for many. Many residents used the blue tarp to protect their property from rain and debris for two consecutive hurricane seasons, a constant reminder of their misfortune.

Having the first storm terrorize the area, then Hurricane Irma, it brought such an abundance of water that a person could kayak down Island Park Road. Bab Snydernanon, who owns Bab’s Beads, used that strategy to get to her business across US-41.

“Paddled in, unloaded sand bags and sand bagged the whole front of the store,” Snydernanon said.

Bab’s Beads eventually shut down for two weeks because of the water. Even after the water reseeded, the business still took a financial hit.

“A lot of them that got hit real hard just ended up moving,” Snydernanon said, “or going out of business.”

But after 13 months, and a abundance of hard work, Goodwill finally reopened its doors. The grand opening was a symbolic victory for a community recovering from massive devastation that those who live nearby will never forget.

“It was all flooded, trees down,” John Nadeau said. “It was unbelievable.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Michael Mora