Irma prompts early arrival for many SWFL snowbirds

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Hurricane Irma could be the cause of an early season in Southwest Florida.

Snowbirds are flocking to the area to check on the damage the storm left behind, and many have decided to stay for the winter.

Kevin Benson, a Canadian who spends part of the year in the Citrus Park neighborhood of Bonita Springs, noticed he’s not the only one who came south.

“There’s probably maybe 100 snowbirds in the Park right now,” Benson said.

Benson made his decision out of concern for the community.

“We wanted to check on our place for sure, but we knew there were people hurting down here, and we wanted to come down and help them get through this nightmare,” he said.

The snowbirds are making their presence felt at businesses.

“It’s been above average (for) this time of year,” said Tony Phelan, owner of the Pinchers seafood restaurants. “Snowbirds are our friends.”

Benson thinks ongoing issues from the storm are likely motivating others to stick around instead of turning back for a last taste of summer up north.

“They’re staying because they’ve got extensive damage to their homes and they want to make sure mold and mildew and things like that do not create a problem later on,” he said.

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