Like millions of other Floridians, Americans and people around the world, Budge Huskey, the CEO of Naples-based Premier Sotheby's International Realty, looked on in disbelief at the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida. Luckily for Huskey, he was more than a thousand miles away, on a business trip in Colorado, but his home on Barefoot Beach, a part of Bonita Springs, was not so fortunate.
“It’s a barrier island; we’re right on the water,” Huskey says. “The whole island was covered in 10 feet of water. We have some neighbors who elected to stay, and they say it was just unbelievably scary.”
Huskey, a native Floridian, says he’s “never experienced anything quite like this.” He lived in the same house during Hurricane Irma in 2017 but experienced no water penetration. This time around, the first floor of the home was inundated with more than 7 feet of floodwater.
“This was the perfect storm,” Huskey says, “in the sense that it hit land at 150 mph and took a hard turn to the right, almost like Hurricane Charley did (in 2004). We were on the wrong side of the hurricane and that’s what really got the storm surge going.”
Premier Sotheby's International Realty has offices up and down the Gulf Coast, from Marco Island to Tampa, so Huskey, realizing there was nothing he could do about his home, turned to ensuring the safety of the company’s employees and checking in on the condition of its offices.
“I’ve been fully plugged in and having meetings every morning with the entire team,” Huskey says. “I’ve been on Zoom all day, every day. The good news is that outside of Naples and some limited damage to our offices in Venice, all the offices appear to be fine. In Naples, we are assessing the situation, but despite all the storm surge and other issues, we have only two offices with significant damage that can’t open, and the rest should be open early next week.”
Huskey says Premier Sotheby's has a disaster communication protocol that went into effect. “We have everybody’s number and (emergency) contacts, and we create these checklists to make sure our people are OK and determine if there’s anybody with urgent needs or property damage that requires temporary housing.”
He adds, “We have been able to connect with the vast majority of people within our company to confirm their status, but there are some we have not been able to reach.”
The latter includes Jeff Burns, who lives on Sanibel Island, which was cut off from the mainland when Hurricane Ian wiped out the causeway linking it to Fort Myers. Burns, Huskey says, is one of Premier Sotheby’s top advisers.
The Business Observer reached out to Burns on Friday at the phone number supplied by Huskey but did not receive a response, though Huskey says it’s likely that unreachable agents and staff members are “simply in locations without power or Internet and or cell service and it's not because they were in an area that was subject to storm surge.”
Let's hope that's the case.
If your home or business was damaged by Hurricane Ian, click here to apply for assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You can also submit a business damage assessment survey that can help expedite emergency bridge loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.