HURRICANE WILMA struck Florida 9 years ago on October 24, 2005. It was the final blow to occur in the destruction of the Flamingo Marina and Outpost Resort. The Outpost Resort consisted of 3 one-story and 2 two-story concrete buildings (a total of 103 guest rooms plus the administrative offices) and 26 free-standing cottages (13 wooden duplexes). These facilities were completely destroyed; wiped off the face of the earth, along with almost everything in the area, including two restaurants, a gift shop, a marina, maintenance shops and the employee housing area. The concessionaire for this operation, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, usually housed a skeleton staff of about 45 or 50 employees during the slow season and up to about 150 during the peak of the winter season. Housing consisted of 4 wooden dormitories, 2 newer concrete dorms, a fantastic fishing pier, a recreational building, several company owned old mobile homes, and parking for about 25 employee-owned RV’s. All that remained after WILMA was the two-story concrete visitor’s center and the Marina Store and two buildings in the maintenance area (although theses building were severely damaged). Fortunately all employees on sight were successfully evacuated prior to the arrival of the storm and no lives were lost. On June 6, 2010, I wrote “An Epitaph to the Flamingo Marina and Outpost Resort” which can still be found on this blog (thesumofme2.wordpress.com). HOWEVER, the actual destruction of the resort began with Hurricane KATRINA in August of 2005. It was the 5th deadliest hurricane in US history – and the 7th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded with winds up to 175mph. Although Flamingo did not receive a direct hit from Katrina the resort did incur considerable damage. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina). Katrina struck the Flamingo Resort on August 28, 2005 (see below photos)
Then Katrina moved into the Gulf of Mexico, and came ashore again around Punta Gorda, Florida. It then marched up the Peace River to Arcadia, Florida, destroying almost everything in its path. I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida, then. As I began the 98 mile drive to Arcadia after the storm, everything seemed normal for a while. Then, as I turned off of US19 onto US70 and headed SW toward Arcadia the country side revealed the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Mile after mile I drove by telephone poles that had been snapped in half and shredded like toothpicks. Beautiful old Live Oak Trees had been uprooted and tossed aside like toys. As I approached the city of Arcadia, clean-up was already in progress, and torn and shredded aluminum siding from the vast number of mobile homes that made up a great part of this communities residences was already piled about 20’ high in one storage lot. (Pictures from the Cross Creek RV Park in Arcadia, Florida – where my cousin kept a 5-wheel RV, and of the children’s playground at the Myakka River State Park appear below).
Katrina was followed by Rita. With winds up to 177mpg, Rita was the 4th most intensive Atlantic hurricane to ever hit the United States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Rita). Rita passed through the Florida Straights on September 26, 2005, on its way to Texas. Since Rita did not pass directly over Flamingo the resort was spared any noticeable damage. However, torrential rains continued to weaken the already damaged resort. Rita was followed by Wilma, the most intense Tropical Cyclone to ever be recorded in the Atlantic Basin, with winds up to 185mpg. Although the eye of Wilma did not pass directly over the Flamingo resort, it passed over nearby Cape Romano with 120mph winds. That was all it would take to complete the destruction of one of my favorite places on earth; a place that I fished with my family in 1947 and where I lived and worked from May of 1996 to September 2002.
With great sorrow and regret, THE END!
(To the best of my knowledge, all of the photographs of Flamingo that are included in this blog were taken by the then General Manager and late Peter Hulse * and forwarded to me by Jennifer Huber) except for those taken in Arcadia (by me).