NORTH PORT, Fl. — Many families can’t begin the cleanup or recovery process after Hurricane Ian because they’re still trapped at their homes. We traveled to North Port, a community in between Sarasota and Fort Myers, where heavy flooding is forcing families to stay put waiting for help to come.
There are hundreds of homes still blocked off by floodwaters, and the families inside are unable to leave.
Shannon Terry, a mother of two, moved to North Port with her husband last year. Ian was their first hurricane experience. The Terrys home is still standing, but it flooded during the hurricane as the family sat inside.
“Next thing I know, my daughter says, ‘Mommy, here comes the water,’ and it came in the door, it came in the shower, coming up through the shower, the toilet, and then the smell…and we were sitting in here with that,” she said.
Terry knew, even in the middle of the storm, they couldn’t stay. Her husband carried the dog and all the possessions he could, and she picked up her 11- and 4-year-old daughters and swam across her street.
“So, as a mom, I didn’t know what I was getting ready to swim across with my daughters. I didn’t know what was in that water. I didn’t even know if I was going to make it, but I just kept calling on my mom, and I got that strength, and I was just hoping that we knocked on a neighbor’s door that would let my kids and myself in,” said Terry.
Her prayer was answered by neighbor Tricia Hinds.
“We saw this family begging, 'Please, please let us in.' Her baby on her back, her other on the front, the husband with the dog, no shoes no nothing,” said Hinds.
The two women, once just neighbors, are now family.
But, this family and this entire neighborhood can’t start the process of cleaning up, filing insurance claims, and trying to move on because they can’t get out of their flooded street.
“I feel trapped. I feel stuck. We have no running water. You can’t live like this, and it’s just like, how long is it gonna be like this?” asked Terry.
Just a few blocks over, Brenda Lopez feels that weight.
“It's hard,” she said.
Her family’s cars won’t make it out of their neighborhood and they have no water or power. They’re using a camping stove with propane their neighbor gave to them.
“I feel like I'm stranded. Definitely,” said Lopez. “I wouldn't call it an island because it's not paradise today.”
“Yeah, I feel isolated,” said Lopez’s family member, Jay Wells.
Lopez’s mom, 92-year-old Peggy Skubel, is hoping she’ll be able to move on from this devastation soon. But she came to North Port to shelter from Ian—she has no idea what her house looks like in Nokomas, Florida, which is about 20 miles away.
“Not having water is the worst thing,” said Skubel. “You want to wash your hands and your face and you just can’t.”
This entire neighborhood is hoping they aren’t forgotten when the resources do arrive, but until then, they’re helping each other in any way they can.