Remember when it comes to bad weather, it’s best to get out and survive

Clean up is still going on from Hurricane Ian and will likely continue for months if not years in some places.

Captain Dave Dipre of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been happening since the hurricane.

Thousands of people have been displaced in the west coast of Florida.

Captain Dipre said, “From what I understand, many of the officer who have deployed up there also were down here for Irma. It’s perhaps easy to compare things afterwards, but they do evaluate that storm as being significantly greater in damage, flooding and that could be just because of the population, too.”

It’s anticipated officers and staff will continue to help in Fort Myers for months.

Captain Dipre said, “The reason is because not just public safety because the police departments will be back up, the sheriff’s office will be back up, they’ll be running, but then our mission is going to shift.”

The FWC will also be working on the derelict vessels, of which it looks like there are thousands.

Captain Dipre said, “Insurance companies will help out, but there will be many that the insurance companies will not handle, so FWC’s going to be dealing with that for a long time to come, in addition to whatever else they need.”

It doesn’t look like Fort Myers will be back to normal for at least five years.

Captain Dipre said, “I’ve got a lot of friends up there and I know what I went through and the difficulties we dealt with down here with Irma and so I’ve got friends who I know have so much work ahead of them. Unfathomable how much work they’re going to have to do to bring that place back to where it wants to be.”

The Mayor of Fort Myers was saying the clean-up, the redevelopment, the new housing all tends to make things stronger than they were.

Captain Dipre said, “I’m praying for Fort Myers and I hope everybody else is also and supporting them in however we can. I know people want to go up and help. That time is coming soon. They’ll be able to up there, load things in a truck and help bring things to people, but be smart about what you take up there. People are showing piles and piles and piles of clothing and things like that that are damaged and destroyed or maybe damaged and destroyed because it’s not necessary. I’m not saying don’t take those things. I’m just encouraging everybody who wants to help out to be wise about what you’re taking up there. Make sure everything you take up is useful and necessary so that we don’t inundate them with stuff that they’re just going to have to clean up and throw away later.”

Right now there are more than 42,000 line men working on restoring power, so now isn’t the time to go up to help, but the time is coming.

It looks like migrants will also be coming from Cuba in the meantime. The Coast Guard works very hard to make sure the cutters are out there and interdicting many of the vessels, but they can’t get them all.

Captain Dipre said, “People don’t seem to understand that. They really do think that our borders are very secure. Our borders are not very secure. They’re just not. The people can get through in boats. The Coast Guard cannot cover every inch of water. If you spend any time on the water, you see the curvature of the earth it’s about six to ten miles and beyond that you can’t always see what’s on the water. We’re doing the best we can.”

FWC also helps the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department when sailing vessels sink at sea.

In the Keys, if a vessel is derelict after 45 days if the owners have not acted to remove or bring a vessel into compliance, they could be subject to criminal charges.

Captain Dipre said, “With any storm, with anything that happens, any tragedy that occurs, whether you’re a home owner or whether you’re living on a boat, you’ve got some tough choices to make. I do not negate the fact that you want to salvage your boat and keep it going and that’s your home. I understand that, but sometimes you’re not able to do that. If you need help just relieving yourself of that burden, FWC can help you with that if that boat was affected by the storm and we’re within that 45 day period, let us know, please. Give us a call. Get in touch with FWC.”

Call 888-404-3922 to talk to officers at the FWC.

Captain Dipre said, “Please don’t wait until the last minute. We are flexible on some of these things. Even after the 45 day period, it is possible that you didn’t know your boat was way out at the Mud Keys and we may come to you and say look, we’re considering pressing charges, the officers have some discretion in how they handle that. FWC will take that boat off your hands. We’re not going to salvage it and put it back where you want it to be. If FWC does take that boat, we’re going to end up destroying the vessel, but that can still be a blessing to a lot of people who do not want to end up dealing with a vessel and who can’t afford to deal with it. Don’t leave it out there to damage the sea grasses. Please don’t leave it out there to damage any corals and please don’t leave it out there where it becomes a pollutant hazard with fuel spills, diesel spills and just debris everywhere.”

We’re still in hurricane season, and if another one should befall us, be prepared.

Captain Dipre said, “I know that you think you might be able to save your boat and without question, that is a possibility. There might be something that you can do. You might be able to tie another line or throw another anchor, but I’m going to tell you that that anchor and not even the boat, the boat is not worth your life. The home that you live in here in the Florida Keys is not worth your life. There are so many people in Fort Myers right now if you asked them the question, hey would you stay again? Would you do it again? So many of them would say hell no. No way I would ever stay again. I wish I would have listened. I wish I would have evacuated because there was nothing that I was able to do. My house is destroyed. My boat is gone and I nearly died because I was in it. So it is absolutely not worth it. Life is going to be hard either way, but life is harder when you’re damaged or seriously injured and possibly almost at the point of death because of not evacuating from the hurricane. There are always going to be naysayers. There’s always going to be people that say I’m staying, but I will tell you, if you’re sick or injured or elderly or have any issues that might hamper you being able to deal with the situation, please leave. Please go. Stay with friends. Find a hotel. Get out of the hurricane affected area and then come back and then begin reconstruction on your home or your boat.”

FWC is always grateful to their partners.

Captain Dipre said, “Sheriff’s office, Coast Guard, Highway Patrol, Key Colony Beach, all of us working together to make things a little better down here in the Florida Keys. Call us if you need us and we will be there.”