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Calm after chaos

I headed down to Compass Lake early last week.  After watching the projected cone of Hurricane Ian for several days, I could not take the pressure any longer.   It took me two years to quit talking about Hurricane Michael.  I was going to be better prepared this time around.

Over the course of two days, I removed the boat and jet ski and took them for their yearly service and checkup.  Usually, I wait until Spring when the service departments are busy and delayed.  This time around the service was completed in two days.  Lesson learned.

With everything finally secured, I left for home.  The storm then turned its fury towards Fort Myers and the west coast of Florida.  I have been through many hurricanes during my life. However, I have never quite reconciled my prayers for a storm to turn its path in another direction with the knowledge that others in that diverted path are praying just as hard.

My heart hurts for those suffering in the aftermath of Ian.  I know the long journey they face and the frustration that will go with their recovery.  After the destruction that we endured from Hurricane Michael, both at Compass Lake and our home in Donalsonville, I can only support the efforts of the relief agencies which were so important in our own time of need.

Less than a week after Ian made landfall, I found myself on the front porch of our home in Auburn.  We did not receive a drop of rain from Hurricane Ian.  However, the front that caused Ian to turn to the east, also brought lower temperatures and humidity.  Fall is finally in the air even as the flowers are still blooming in our yard.

As I sat on the porch, families walked past our house on the tree-lined street.  Scores of them, with their children and their pets.  Young couples held hands oblivious to all around them.  Robins were making their move south and those sights and sounds reinforced that we are in the midst of nature’s changing season.  

The past few days have been amazingly beautiful.  Maybe the weather seems so nice because I know more than most what we avoided with this monster storm.   After almost four years, the aftermath of Hurricane Michael no longer lives in my head.  Life finally seems back to normal in a dozen wonderful ways.

Yet for others, the journey back to normal has just begun.  Chaos reigns supreme in parts of south Florida and will for quite a while.  For some families, normal may never return.  Their losses extend far beyond just damaged homes and property.  

As Mayor of Donalsonville at the time, I remember the first meeting with FEMA and the National Guard after Hurricane Michael.  Local leaders were counseled to rely on the word “patience” in our discussions with fellow citizens.  It was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.  

Natural disasters are becoming more severe and more common.  More people live in flood prone areas along the coastline than ever before. The west is dying of thirst and the tornados in the Midwest seem relentless.   

We should offer all the support that we are capable of in helping the people in south Florida, South Carolina and Puerto Rico who have had such horrific losses during the past two hurricanes.  We should offer prayers, understanding and financial assistance.  Do not let your awareness of their plight disappear in the wake of the next big news cycle.

Patience.  Such an easy word to say and such a hard thing to have, to do.  I can only wish that someday, perhaps even four years later, they will sit on a front porch somewhere and rejoice in the calmness of a beautiful day, knowing that their own chaos is finally gone.


Dan Ponder can be reached at

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