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'Irmaggedon': Fultonians caught in hurricane's fury

'Irmaggedon': Fultonians caught in hurricane's fury

September 12th, 2017 by Jenny Gray in Local News

Birds fly in a blue sky following Sunday's visit from Hurricane Irma. This flooded street is in the Isles of Capri area next to Marco Island.

Sunday was a nail biter for Fulton woman Kathy Kronk, and at the end of the day, the news wasn't good.

Her winter home on Chokoloskee Island, in Southwest Florida, is likely ruined — a tragic memento left by Hurricane Irma.

"I'm OK — my house in Florida's under water," she said Monday morning. "I've been in touch by phone with people there."

One of those people is her son Damon Kronk, 44, a former Fultonian. He told the Fulton Sun he rode out the hurricane at a friend's home in Golden Gate Estates, just east of Naples.

Early Monday, he cautiously made his way 40 minutes south to check his home at Isles of Capri, part of an archipelago that includes Marco Island, the Ten Thousand Islands and Chokoloskee.

"There's lots of destruction — trees broken off everywhere, power lines down," he said. "There's not going to be power for weeks around here."

Damon Kronk's house is on Johnson Bay. He said he could see major power lines and their supporting structures broken down in the middle of the bay.

"It's bad, but I haven't heard of any fatalities," he said, adding he lives on the island full time with his wife. "I took her to New York the week before, so she's fine."

Damon said the storm surge snatched away many boats.

"People couldn't get them out on time, and the surge was so fast," he said. "About noon, the water was completely sucked out of our bay, and then it all came rushing back in."

Damon said he took his boat to a friend's house for safekeeping, but two trees fell and demolished it.

"So I'm out," he added. "There's many roofs just tripped completely off. My dock's ripped off. Water got into my lanai (enclosed porch) but there's no water in my house. My neighbor is about 10 feet lower and there's water in his house."

Damon's running out of gas for his car, but there isn't any to be found. Gas stations ran out days ago.

"I'm over here siphoning gas out of my boat so I can get it in my car," he added. "There's no electric to run the gas stations, and no trucks and no gas."

Damon said he planned to spend the night back at his friend's house in Golden Gate Estates. His best guess is the wind gusts rose above 140 miles per hour during the worst of Hurricane Irma. Naples airport reported a wind gust of 142 mph, weather officials said on Sunday afternoon.

"The whole house was shaking," he said. "The windows and doors were sucking in and out so bad our ears would pop."

Some areas are experiencing looting, so people are on edge. But Damon, who planned ahead, said surviving the immediate future is not a problem. He stocked up on water and non-perishable food — things like peanut butter and bread, and hot dogs he can toss on the barbecue grill. He's also got a filter pump in case he runs out of bottled water and needs to turn to local creeks for water.

"It's a disaster, for sure," he said. "I can't do anything until I get power. The water mains are broken — there's water spraying everywhere."

Waiting's the hardest part

Kathy Kronk said she is waiting for the all clear before making her way south to her Chokoloskee Island home. Ironically, she was in the North Carolina mountains visiting with friends from her part of Florida when Sunday's storm happened.

Not many homes are left undamaged on her island, she's learned.

"Chokoloskee — it was hit very hard. They had water over their roofs," she said. "My house had about four feet of water in it."

The causeway from Everglades City to the island was underwater Sunday, cutting islanders off from the mainland. The local island church also received damage, Kathy said.

"The Church of God had water up to their roof in their fellowship hall," she said. "As far as we know, there's been no loss of life there, and that's amazing."

Kathy said she's spent winters down there for about 16 years. She and her late husband Wayne bought their stick-framed house about four years ago.

"What's so sad is for so many people, it's their permanent home, and they're poor," she said, adding flood insurance can cost as much as $4,000 or $5,000 a year.

She fears her house will be condemned by local officials before she can get there. Florida's high heat and humidity create ripe conditions for mold and mildew.

She said she'll return to Fulton this week and head to Southwest Florida as soon as officials open a path.

"When we can go, people are lined up to take a work trailer with tools," she said. "Fuel is going to be the biggest issue. You've got to have gas to run a generator."

She will find a way to live there, even if her house is destroyed, Kathy said.

"If I have to, I'll just put an RV down there next to the house," she added. "I'll live there and clean up the mess."

But there is one thing about hurricanes Kathy Kronk knows for sure.

"It brings out the best in people," she said, laughing. "At least, it brings out the best in the good people."