Hurricane Irma downs trees, homes, and power lines in Immokalee, LaBelle, and surrounding farmworker communities, but spares lives and leaves spirits strong…

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Hurricane Irma downs trees, homes, and power lines in Immokalee, LaBelle, and surrounding farmworker communities, but spares lives and leaves spirits strong…

Massive hurricane shifts course after making landfall in SW Florida, heads straight for Immokalee and other farmworker communities in interior of state…

The most powerful hurricane in the history of the Atlantic made its way onto the mainland of Florida this past Sunday afternoon and evening, with winds up to 130 mph and soaking, pounding rains.  Though Hurricane Irma had been downgraded to a Category 2 storm by the time it reached Immokalee, the already impoverished farmworker community — and several others north of Immokalee, including Florida’s citrus capital, LaBelle — saw some of the worst of the storm, as the northeast quadrant of the massive hurricane’s eye wall slammed directly into small inland towns along the length of the state.

We are happy to report that, remarkably, despite hours of fierce lashing by Irma’s winds and stinging rains, no lives were reported lost as of the writing of this report, thanks largely to a long and vigorous effort by state and local officials — and the CIW, in the case of the Immokalee community — urging residents to prepare for the storm by evacuating or seeking refuge in any of the many shelters opened in towns throughout the state.  The physical damage wrought by the storm was great, however, with the worst impact reserved for communities like Immokalee, where the housing stock consists mainly of used trailers and flimsily built wooden shacks.  

The CIW did its part to mobilize the community to prepare for the worst ahead of the storm and to ensure that the county established sufficient shelter for all those who didn’t have the means to evacuate.  The CIW crew even provided some classic “Son Jarocho” music to lift people’s spirits during the long hours bunkered down inside the Red Cross shelter organized at Immokalee High:

Though the excellent work by countless volunteers and local and state authorities helped prevent the loss of life when Irma hit, today, three days later, Immokalee, LaBelle, and many communities across the state are facing a looming crisis.  Most of the inland communities affected by Irma remain without power, with many areas still dealing with localized flooding, and with shortages of food and essential supplies quickly becoming an urgent predicament, as any perishable stores that people might have stocked for the aftermath have been lost due to the lack of refrigeration.  

The need for essential supplies — from food and diapers to clothing, especially undergarments and socks — is growing by the day.  If you are interested in lending support to farmworkers in Immokalee and other surrounding communities, contact Julia Perkins of the CIW at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Together we will make it through the aftermath of this powerful, dangerous storm as successfully as we did through the storm itself.  Indeed, the messages of support that continuously flowed in during and after the storm kept spirits high, and reminded the farmworker community of Immokalee, once again, that we are not alone.  And we will have more information later in the week as we learn more about a fund that is currently being established to help get people back on their feet.  

Thank you, as always, for your support.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers • PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 • (239) 657-8311 • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.