Construction workers willing to “roll the dice” on Fort Myers Beach

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“I’ve been a gambler my whole life”, “I’m going to roll the dice.” Fort Myers Beach resident riding out Hurricane Irma
Andrew West/news-press.com

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Ed Brown is willing to gamble on a stay at Fort Myers Beach, despite an evacuation order and predictions of a storm surge of up to 12 feet.

With the popular tourist destination on the Gulf of Mexico nearly deserted, Brown and his friend Tim Benevente were in the middle of storm preparations, planning to get a good four hours in Sunday morning before it became too windy and rainy to work.

“It’s a crap shoot really” Brown said. “I’ve been a gambler my whole life. I’m gonna roll the dice.”

He’s lived on the island since 1984.

“With a hurricane, at least you get a warning,” he said.

Developer Joe Orlandini was out checking on about 60 properties and building sites about 3 p.m. Saturday  with three other men.

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He plans to stay on the island, but was having second thoughts, when at one point, a forecaster said the storm could hit Fort Myers Beach with winds up to 195 mph.

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He’s lived on Fort Myers Beach for 14 years, and left the week before Hurricane Charley, but road out Hurricane Wilma. 

“Wilma wasn’t that bad … It was tolerable,” he said. He made the decision based on a gut feeling Irma was going farther east. “I had a feeling.”

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    Shelter process

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    Hurricane Irma: A mile of patience at evacuation center

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    Fort Myers families flock to shelters ahead of Hurricane Irma

He sent his wife with their two children to Ohio, and had planned to have 6 to 10 people stay at his three-story, concrete home in the middle of the island.

“I wanted to stay here to take care of the property and buildings,”  Orlandini said. “If there was water damage, I wanted to save (them).”

Now, he says, his family is mad at him.

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“It’s enough to make it not worth it,” he said.

Then, the wind kicked up, palms swaying.

“That’s a 30,” he said. “The first real blow right there.”

While he was slightly worried, Brown was solid in his decision.

“The only way to prepare is to go through a few of ’em,” Brown said.

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