Many Minnesota snowbirds were breathing sighs of relief Monday, as reports from Florida's Gulf Coast indicated relatively little catastrophic damage after Hurricane Irma rolled through an area with a large population of Minnesota-based residents and businesses.
The storm, which meteorologists a week ago called the most severe Atlantic hurricane in history, made landfall Sunday in the Naples area as a much tamer tempest — despite winds that gusted as high as 130 miles per hour.
"I am just flabbergasted at just how little damage there is. I expected much, much worse," said Mike Schumann, who owns a home in Naples, along with a branch of Traditions, his Twin Cities-based home furnishings store.
"We really, really dodged a bullet there," Schumann said.
Perhaps the best indication of Irma's gentler-than-expected impact was this: A Naples mobile-home park in the path of the storm survived virtually intact.
Naples emergency crews saw only minimal structural damage and little flooding as they toured the area after the storm, Mayor Bill Barnett told the Naples Daily News. Storm surges, predicted to be as high as 15 to 20 feet, came in at less than half those levels.
Bill Brann of Edina owns a Naples condo fewer than 200 yards from the Gulf of Mexico shore. "Early report: Landscape damage but no storm surge flooding," he said in a Twitter message. "Power is out, roads blocked by down [sic] power lines and trees but storm surge was much less than forecast."
Clearly, some were not as lucky. Drone footage making the rounds on YouTube shows widespread flooding and some structural damage.
Schumann and others said information from neighbors and local sources has been spotty.
"At this point, my optimism is based on watching TV and knowing that the TV stations are going to show you the most disturbing, the worst damage pictures they can find," he said. "And when all you see are a couple of pool cages that are torn up, and that's as bad as it looks, that's not so bad."
Arne Carlson, a former governor of Minnesota, owns a condo in Punta Gorda, about 60 miles north of Naples. "By and large, Punta Gorda kind of came off OK," Carlson said Monday. "As far as we know, Punta Gorda is OK and our condo is OK. So we are very, very happy with how it worked out.
"The biggest fear was the storm surge, and that never really materialized," he said, adding that "all my information is sketchy. We don't know if water leaked through the doors or windows. But in terms of the major issues, we're OK."
Edina-based Jerry's Foods has had a location on Sanibel Island near Fort Myers for 34 years. The hurricane forced the Florida store to close midafternoon Friday. "We'll reopen sometime late Monday or Tuesday," a posting on the store's Facebook page read.
The Minnesota Twins organization, which maintains baseball operations in Fort Myers year-round, is reporting only minor wind damage.
"There were some trees and a fence that had wind damage," team spokesman Dustin Morse said Monday. "It could have been worse. There was no water damage. "
With the few year-round employees moved out ahead of the hurricane, the facility is now being used as a staging area by search-and-rescue personnel who serve Lee County, Morse added.
Ted Meyer, of Falcon Heights, who owns a Naples condo, said he was steeling himself for bad news after early reports predicted massive storm damage. Waiting for the storm to hit, the anxiety was "overwhelming," Meyer said.
"You're helpless — you can't hire anyone," he said. "If you had called me Saturday morning, I was already kind of writing off the investment [in the condo]. I couldn't get there. There are no contractors to hire. There won't be power for days or weeks.
"I could give you 20 problems and there's no solution for any of them. But as sad as we were about our unit, you really are concerned with people's lives."
Meyer's ground-floor condo unit appears to have come through in good shape, though he's not sure whether it suffered some water intrusion.
Still to come for many residents, he added, are weeks and months of dealing with the aftermath of what was still a substantial storm.
"None of us really understand insurance on this," Meyer said. "I'm a real estate attorney, and I can't really tell you what to expect on this. Who knows what's insured and what's not? Who knows if the insurance company is going to be insolvent?"
People back in Minnesota might have a clearer picture of the damage than those on the ground in Florida. As many as 12 million Floridians are without power, meaning they can't watch TV, check the internet or charge their phones.
"The Fort Myers TV stations are livestreaming," Schumann said. "Because we have power and we're livestreaming, I think we have better information than anyone actually in Naples."
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.