Florida: Update Since Hurricane Irma

Now that it’s been several weeks since Hurricane Irma has passed, life here in southwest Florida has finally started to feel like normal again. The power is back on, debris in the streets is getting cleaned up, and many families and households have found a stability they’ve not had since the beginning of September. That being said, there are still many people out there who are in dire straits.

It was quite a ride in the Fort Myers-Naples area before and after the storm. We, like much of Florida, were under evacuation orders, significantly ratcheting up the already overwhelming worry and stress. When you are confronted by a storm like Hurricane Irma, one that has already destroyed vital infrastructure and taken lives in the Caribbean, many thoughts go through your head. You leave your house, wondering if it will be flooded or even recognizable the next time you see it. You leave your business, wondering how much water and wind damage there will be, and how long it will take to reopen after the storm. At all of our Azul Cosmetic Surgery and Medical Spa locations, we thankfully only suffered minor damage (primarily to the landscaping) and were able to reopen one of our offices after only a week or so. After the storm, even without power, we wanted to make sure that our patients were cared for and informed about everything that was happening on our end. Our staff really pulled together, working through the week to call patients to reschedule appointments and get the clinic ready to reopen as soon as possible.

Even with all of the bad news about the hurricane, you can often find a bright side, a silver lining. There is a remarkable sense of community that can spring up at times like this. Everywhere across Florida, you can see people helping people. Disasters like these can really bring out the best in the American people, and we have certainly seen prime examples of that during the post-storm recovery. From neighbors helping neighbors recover, to basic cleanup of trees and other debris in the streets and parks, we got to see the people of Florida pull together in the days and weeks following the hurricane. Still, the personal and economic impact of the storm to many people across our state is difficult to comprehend. So many lost their homes, their livelihoods, their possessions. Our hearts go out to all of them.

To help victims of the hurricane and take some of the pressure off, Congress passed a special tax relief bill in October. In addition to other measures, this will allow people to draw money from their retirement accounts (without any penalty) to help pay for repairs. Another federal program to help victims is the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program. Anyone who lived or worked in an area that needed FEMA Individual Assistance during the storm, and suffered a storm-related loss, is eligible, so long as they were not already receiving food assistance beforehand. Florida residents in certain counties might also qualify for other Disaster Assistance. You can visit this website and enter your address to see if you are eligible for individual assistance.

If you wish to help with hurricane recovery, not just here in Florida but anywhere in the US that was impacted, there are many ways you can contribute. Donating blood is always welcome, as that can often be the difference between life and death for many storm victims. You can donate blood through OneBlood in Florida. Another organization, the American Red Cross, does excellent work, and you can donate either your time or your money to them.

Here at Azul, we want to do whatever we can to support our patients, staff and the communities we live in through these tough times. If we can do anything to help, please let us know. We wish you all of our best and, please, take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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