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Hurricane Michael Impacts SWFL Coastal Communities

Rachel Iacovone
An Egret wades through the knee-high water outside of The Mad Hatter restaurant on Sanibel Island on Tuesday afternoon.

As winds from passing Hurricane Michael pushed tides higher on Florida’s Gulf Coast, floodwaters rose in some parts of Southwest Florida.

The colorful bungalows on the edge of Sanibel Island – just before it becomes Captiva – were filling with water on Tuesday afternoon.

Nearby stood The Mad Hatter, now surrounded with debris-filled water. Kurt Jarvis co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Michelle.

“There’s not a lot of vegetation in front of these bungalows, and that’s where the water started to come up. Once it got over the sand dune, there was nothing stopping it, so…" Jarvis said. “I would say it was knee-high within a half hour.”

Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU
One of the waterside bungalows affected by the amplified high tide on Sanibel Island

This wasn’t the first time this had happened though. This time last year, the tides also rose around The Mad Hatter.

“Believe it or not, we stayed open," Jarvis said. "We walked people through the kitchen. They were happy to do it.”

This time, some water got in through the entrance, and what used to be the parking lot now resembled a wading pool. So, the reservations for the night were cancelled, and Jarvis went back to loading more sand bags at the front door.

Past the bungalows, at one of the entrances to Blind Pass Beach, Millard Everhart stood with his bike resting against his hip, as he watched the waves crash a few feet away from the road.

“My wife, today, sent me this picture of water near the Castaways I believe, just down the road," Everhart said, outstretching his phone.

The former judge’s wife got the photo from Facebook. The couple spend most of the year here at their home just two miles south of the flooded area.

Credit Andrea Perdomo / WGCU
Palm fronds and other debris line the shore of Blind Pass Beach on Sanibel Island.

“I walked out a few paces, close enough to get my running shoes wet," Everhart said. "And, then, I retreated back here.”

Like many Sanibel residents, Everhart’s brush with the waves was the closest the water got to him on Tuesday. On this narrow island, the difference of not even blocks but, sometimes, just yards can be what decides whether the waters rise around or inside a home.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.