Updates from CCL in Florida, Texas
By Flannery Winchester
One of CCL’s five core values is “relationships.” In this work for a livable world, we know how important it is to support each other, listen to each other, and comfort each other when the going gets tough. Recently, the going has been tough for our CCL family in Texas and Florida as they’ve faced Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, though thankfully everyone is safe. Here’s an update on how they’re doing, the impacts they’ve seen, and how you can help.
Chuck Holly and Amy Clifton, the Naples chapter leaders, were both out of harm’s way when Irma hit this weekend. Chuck was up north. “The storm made landfall directly south of our home, with reported winds of 140 mph,” Chuck said. “With these winds, damage was inevitable. We know we lost our lanai, but are unsure yet of other damage.”
Amy, who was in Barcelona with her husband, has seen photos of her community. She said, “It looks like there was a lot of tree damage—big, beautiful oaks uprooted, a line of palm trees lying pushed over two lanes of a four-lane road.” Amy also noted standing water on many roads of about 18 inches. Chuck said, “Although there was flooding in the streets of our community, the storm surge was less than expected and did not reach us.”
“It’s also sad from an environmental justice point of view,” Amy pointed out, citing reports from local papers. “Those that have the least have been hurt the most.”
Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda
Chapter leaders Lindsey Kohlenburg and Coty Keller both live in other states during the summer, but were actively communicating with chapter members in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. “We were on the storm track until about mid-afternoon Sunday,” Lindsey said. Her neighbors sheltered in place, and she was scared for them. Luckily, “Irma gave us a break and moved inland.” Her friends, neighbors and property are fine.
From afar, she continued her advocacy efforts in response to this extreme weather. “I called our Rep. Thomas Rooney, thanked him for sending out helpful messages about resources during the storm, and asked that he take action on climate.” She emphasized that atmospheric scientists have been warning about the possibilities of stronger storms like Harvey and Irma since the 80s. “The staffer liked the compliment and said she would pass my comments along. I posted that call suggestion on our CCL Port Charlotte Facebook page,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey also expressed concern about the Florida scrub jays whose only habitat is in that area. “It’s a reminder of what we have done to our climate and the species besides us who pay the price,” she said.
Group leader John Saatoff, who co-leads the Space Coast chapter and lives in Melbourne, Fla., evacuated to his daughter’s home in Phoenix. “There was significant flooding throughout Brevard County,” he said. “The barrier island communities (Cocoa Beach, Satellite Beach, etc.) were inundated.” His county also experienced high power outages—as high as 85%, John said on Monday.
“It was a very stressful Sunday, and the reports were expecting a direct hit and 12-24 hours of 80+ mph winds, so we made the last-minute decision to go,” said group co-leader Cara Fleischer. “I evacuated to Atlanta with the two kids, dog, Grandma, sister-in-law, and three-month-old niece.”
Thankfully, Tallahassee fared much better than expected. “Our city has trees down and loss of power but overall I feel very relieved,” Cara said. “We just got back home Tuesday night, exhausted but grateful. Wednesday we will be moving tree limbs, cleaning the pool, and returning outdoor furniture to their places.”
Bob Tancig, one of the group leaders in Gainesville, weathered the storm at home. He said, “We had it relatively mild where I am. I didn’t even lose power. I am afraid the rest of the state did much worse.” He’s right—as of Tuesday afternoon, 48% of his county and more than 5.4 million homes and businesses across the state were without power.
Bob’s co-leader Abhaya Thiele, who is also a co-coordinator for the Southeast, chose to evacuate. She experienced plenty of CCL hospitality along the way, too. “First, our Tallahassee chapter leader, Len Adams, called me and invited me to seek safety from the storm with him and his wife Connie,” Abhaya said. “I was truly touched by their thoughtfulness, and relieved, too.” She spent the first night with Len and Connie, but the next morning, it became clear that Irma was tracking further west, heading straight for Tallahassee. Worried about the possibility of tornadoes, Abhaya headed north, taking back roads to avoid the traffic on I-10 and I-75. She wasn’t sure yet where she was headed.
During her drive, she connected with John Beckerly in Clemson, who happily offered to put her up for a night or two. “Without batting an eye, he said, ‘Sure! Mi casa es su casa!’” Abhaya remembered. While driving, she also called into the first session of CCL’s “Climate Support Group.” On the call, Atlanta-area group leader Terry Schiff extended her own invitation. “If you are anywhere near Atlanta, I’d be hurt if you don’t come stay with me!” she told Abhaya. Abhaya was right near Atlanta at the time, so she called John to thank him for his invitation to South Carolina, and she pulled over in Atlanta instead. She and Terry got to enjoy great company and catch up on their respective CCL news.
Abhaya sent in this update from a coffee shop near Terry’s home, which offered its own inspiration and encouragement. “On the wall is a sign that says, ‘We believe in the giant potential of the tiny bean,’” Abhaya said. “And guess what that made me think of? Yes, CCL. We are all ‘beans’—powerful in our own right, and even more powerful when we come together.”
Last week in Houston, the Missouri City group leader Paul Suckow returned home after Hurricane Harvey to find 16 to 18 inches of standing water in his home from the nearby Willow Waterhole Bayou. CCL members from across four chapters did what we do best: work together on the big problems. Last weekend, they showed up to help Paul tackle the huge project of gutting his home.
How you can help
If you know of friends, family or CCL members in Texas who need help, feel free to email Brett Cease at brett (at) citizensclimatelobby (dot) org so he can get the word out. To let us know about needs in Florida, contact Don Addu at don (at) citizensclimatelobby (dot) org. If you happen to be near Florida’s Miami-Dade county and are able to help your neighbors, you can volunteer at this Community Emergency Operations Center.
And of course, continue your work to address the root of these extreme weather events. As Amy from Naples said, “I think that the work that Citizens’ Climate Lobby does every day is the best support possible.”