LUBBOCK, Texas – The aftermath of Hurricane Ian was devastating for many, but for one Texas family, their home island of North Captiva was hit hard.
Kale and Sarah Dudding are both originally from Texas. Kale grew up in Lubbock, but the two moved to North Captiva Island this last June to be closer to Sarah’s family.
North Captiva Island is in Lee County in Southwest Florida, located just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Only about 40 people live there full-time as it thrives on tourism. Taking a boat is the only way to get there, but for Kale and Sarah, this island is home.
Aside from being close to Sarah’s family, the Dudding’s decided to start their own business, taking people on eco tours, and chasing dolphins. They also manage several properties on the island as vacation rentals.
“I teach online. So, I kept my job. And I was able to continue teaching on the island. Kale took over the business full time. And it has gone really well until there’s a hurricane,” Sarah explained.
When Hurricane Ian hit the island last month, the couple said it was extremely scary for them. They evacuated with their one-year-old before the storm, but Sarah’s family was 4 of only 33 people on the island that stayed through it all.
They said it was at least a day and a half that they hadn’t heard from any of them. They had no idea if they had made it. Thankfully, everyone on the island made it safe through the storm. However, Kale and Sarah won’t be able to take people on an eco-tour or chase dolphins for a while.
“Now, we are taking roofing companies, insurance adjusters any kind of volunteers or different supplies groceries over in our boat. So, it has shifted quite a bit,” Kale said.
Their properties were damaged in the storm but are already undergoing construction. They said many people have come together to help the small island.
“I feel even more determined. Like I feel like we’re more like we’re tighter knit now even…we’re going to rebuild and it’s going to be awesome,” Sarah added.
The island is still without water and power, but that should be up and running again by next month. However, it will take several months before the island is open for tourism again. If you’d like to help this community rebuild, visit the Upper Captiva Civic Association website to donate.