Port Charlotte picking up pieces after Hurricane Ian

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WFLA) – Driving on US-41 through North Port and Port Charlotte reveals the effects of Hurricane Ian on life there. Long lines of cars at the few gas stations in town, Publix shelves empty of nearly all cold and frozen items, and vehicles with open trunks, waiting at FEMA stations for food and water.

“It was a mandatory evacuation. I’m not stupid,” said Pedro Ruiz. “They said leave, so I left.”

After overcoming Hurricane Irma, Ruiz and his wife took no chances with Hurricane Ian. They traveled to Fort Lauderdale on September 27, a day before the storm hit.

“The hardest thing would have been to stay here and live through the wind and the things it tore apart,” Ruiz said.

He returned on September 30 and began cleaning. While his home was largely spared, his neighbor’s was not.

“Their shed, their pool cage and a lot of their roofing was all over my yard,” Ruiz explained. “We came back and, ‘Oh my God, what are we missing?’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, well, not too bad except for the boat.’ »

Ruiz’s boat is halfway up its raised platform, now pointing straight up at the sky. His big concern now is power.

“It’s not looking good. Our transformers are down. If you can look over there, there are the transformers, they are on the ground,” Ruiz said, pointing to the block. “When we arrived they were like hanging over the wires and all that.”

In the aftermath, however, friends come to help friends.

“[We’re] trying to help a family friend,” said Inna Kamerzan. “She’s basically stuck on her own.”

Kamerzan and his family flew to Tampa on Sept. 30 and checked into their Airbnb in Sarasota — the power had been turned on hours earlier. She took gas for a friend of the family.

“There are long queues at gas stations,” Kamerzan said. “We had to wait, I don’t know, about half an hour to refuel.”

Kamerzan finally made his delivery and sent photos of his friend’s house. The roof was completely blown off the garage, parts of the garage fell on the car, and the pool cage fell into the pool, like so many other homes in the area.

“They don’t know if they’re going to go home,” Kamerzan said of residents of North Port. “Or what they might come home.”

But while the hurricane brought destruction, it also sparked an outpouring of camaraderie.

“We’ve spoken to our neighbors more in recent days than we did last year,” Ruiz said.

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