BAR HARBOR — The ties that bind Mount Desert Island and Florida are many, so residents here carefully watched the path of Hurricane Irma over the weekend and are planning ways to help.
Some Mainers retire to Florida but stay in close contact with family and friends back home Downeast. Others migrate between jobs in tourist businesses in Maine in the summer and Key West in the winter.
Hotel company Ocean Properties Limited has properties on both of Florida’s coasts as well as on Key West, Key Largo and Islamorada, which were hit hard by Irma.
Power company Emera Maine sent a team to assist Tampa Electric, a fellow Emera Inc. affiliate, with storm restoration efforts. Twelve line workers, a line supervisor and a mechanic departed in five trucks from Hampden Sunday morning, according to a statement from the company. Crews planned to drive to Florida over the course of three days, providing it remains safe to travel.
Sharon Graff-Radell left her home in Miami as the storm approached and arrived in Bangor very early Saturday morning to stay with her parents, Bar Harbor summer residents Ralph and Mimi Graff.
“I couldn’t believe I got a flight,” Graff-Radell said. “You would go online, and flights would just disappear in seconds.”
When she arrived at the airport, she said she found a surreal scene with a lot of terrified people and their dogs. TV news on every wall had images of the giant storm’s track, blaring warnings to “get out.”
But she and her neighbors in Miami faced tough decisions about whether and how to evacuate. It took many of them 20 hours to drive to Atlanta.
“It was sort of paralyzing for people,” she said. “They were ready to leave but didn’t know what was out there. No one had seen a storm of that magnitude ever hit Florida, so it was really terrifying.”
Graff-Radell’s husband, Gregg, stayed at home. He, their Burmese mountain dog and Gregg’s 84-year-old father all are safe, and their house is undamaged, she said. But the power has been out since the storm hit Sunday, and the weather is hot.
“I think people are now starting to get power in certain areas, but where we are, they haven’t gotten power. Now people are trying to fly back, and they can’t get back in.”
Graff-Radell said she’s grateful she was able to get a flight to Maine. Since she’s here, with power and internet, she’s been able to get back to work.
She’s coordinating ways for her company, TLC For Kids, to provide emergency backup childcare for families in the many Florida cities where schools are still closed.
Those affected by Hurricane Harvey in south Texas also are on the minds of island residents.
The aftermath of Harvey has left dozens of public school libraries in Houston and the surrounding areas devastated. Some libraries have been completely wiped out, while others lost thousands of books due to flooding.
Island Readers & Writers (IRW) in Southwest Harbor will be collecting new and gently used children’s books to send to elementary and middle school libraries in Houston, Baytown, Richmond, Dickinson and Friendswood.
IRW will collect books for elementary and middle grade readers Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 246 Main St. in Southwest Harbor. Donations will be accepted until Thursday, Sept. 28. Contact IRW at 244-5111.
Bar Harbor barbeque restaurant Pork Nation flies a Texas flag, and owners Desiree Bousquet and Mick Majka plan to donate 25 percent of profits every Wednesday to the Red Cross for the next few months.