“Is there a shuttle?”
Karen Coderre asked anyone who would listen. With the afternoon sun beating upon her, she walked down Mantanzas Pass Bridge in a daze. Behind her, she dragged a small grey roller bag and a green tote bag that kept her essentials, clothes, and her purse.
She wore brown flip-flops, a black maxi dress and big black sunglasses – ready for a beach day, maybe, but not to put her life back together. Passing vehicles kicked up the sand that had been left behind as the storm surge covered San Carlos Boulevard.
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Someone had given her a ride to the bridge. She didn’t know who. She rode out Hurricane Ian at her home on Eucalyptus Court, where she lived for just eight months. The water during Hurricane Ian got up to her neck, she said.
Now, almost two days after the storm, she was looking for a shuttle, but there were none yet. Some LeeTran buses would arrive within the hour.
“I’m never coming back,” she said.
Law enforcement officers stopped pedestrians headed toward Fort Myers Beach on Friday afternoon, allowing only residents with passes or identification to make the trek over the 65-foot fixed-span bridge. In small groups, residents like Coderre walked over the bridge toward the mainland, suitcases in tow.
On San Carlos Boulevard heading toward the bridge, and all around, massive boats sat on top of cars left behind, and roofs were stripped away from the buildings. The sound of helicopters flying overhead was constant.
There was destruction around every corner. At the northern shore of Matanzas Harbor, larger-than-life shrimp boats were piled on one another. On the other side of Main Street, many of the mobile homes at the Ebb Tide RV Park were lifted from their lots. Strewn about were personal effects, drenched by storm surge and muck: A Danielle Steel novel. A coffee mug decorated with vegetables. A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album. A photo of a dog and playing cards.
Back at the bridge, Kelly O’Hare was also hoping to find a bus that would take her to an aid organization. That’s what she was told when someone in an orange car dropped her off at the bridge. Another plan was to wait for her daughter to pick her up.
“I’m not sure what they’re allowing,” she said. “Nobody’s talking to anybody. It’s unfortunate. There’s no one out there with a speaker saying ‘There will be a bus. It starts at this time.’ Nobody was saying anything.”
She struggled to carry a heavy green pillowcase that was stuffed with medication. The clothes on her back are all that she had. Her husband had stopped to rest after walking over the bridge with their cat, Winter.
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As she saw first responders driving past with residents in the back of a pickup truck, she began to tear up, exasperated that she had been turned down after asking for a ride earlier. She wished she stayed at her house on Coconut Drive instead.
“Some people will take you and some people are not. And I don’t know which one’s which,” she said.
Hannah Morse covers consumer issues for The Palm Beach Post. Drop a line at email@example.com, call 561-820-4833 or follow her on Twitter @mannahhorse.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Hurricane Ian: Fort Myers Beach residents frustrated by response