IRMA: At damaged Gatorama, crocs now mingling with gators

By Scott Fais, Entertainment Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, September 15, 2017, 2:38 PM EDT

The sounds of Irma cleanup can be heard in a classic Florida roadside attraction.

But this is no ordinary hurricane cleanup — there are almost 100 alligators watching this one at Gatorama.

Although Patty Register’s sign says "open," Gatorama, in Glades County east of Punta Gorda, is closed. The attraction is now partially under water and out of power.

“I have to be able to pay people," Register said Thursday.

With no foot traffic from visitors and no power to run her mail-order gator-meat business, the small business owner is losing close to a $1,000 a day.

“The winds continued… The gusts were getting stronger,” said her husband, Allen, about Hurricane Irma, which made landfall at Marco Island on Sunday, Sept. 10.

“We were in fine shape the day before Irma struck. And I just want to be able to keep paying everybody.”

While their work crew stays busy hauling debris out of the gator lagoon, the reptiles keep watch from the water.

And with the walkway destroyed, the crocodiles are now mingling with the alligators.

But with 30 free-roaming crocodiles and 40 alligators, how do the Registers expect to keep them all in? A fence.

“People were saying, ‘What about the gators? Will they be OK?’ " Allen Register said. "They have the capability to go under water for hours at a time.”

Also working to get the lights back on is the Glades Electric Co-Op, which provides power to more than 16,000 meters on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. The co-op says it has 150 linemen from Mississippi and the Panhandle working on reconnecting the power. But it will take 500 new telephone poles and 25 miles of cable before all the power is reconnected.

Until then, for Allen and Patty, they will continue to clean up and focus on reopening.

“A lot of people have it a lot worse," Patty Register said. "We have a big responsibility, Allen and I do.”

Gatorama is closed until further notice. Patty Register thinks it will take weeks to clean up the mess and make it safe again for guests.