Western New Yorkers lend a helping hand and hunker down as Hurricane Ian hits southwest Florida

While many have evacuated or made the long journey north to safety, others are weathering the hurricane and trying to keep family and friends informed.

FLORIDA, USA – As Western New York watches Hurricane Ian sweep up Florida’s Gulf Coast, no doubt many are eagerly awaiting news of their families living in the Sunshine State. While many have evacuated or made the long journey north to safety, others are battling bad weather.

Cheektowaga native Teresa Heath moved to LaBelle, Florida in January. Although they were located quite inland, she was worried about the arrival of the storm.

“I don’t think you can prepare for this, to be honest with you. I’m used to blizzards, snowstorms and maybe the occasional tornado. … It’s a matter of possible no power and staying cool,” Heath told 2 On Your Side on Wednesday afternoon.

Health and her family boarded up their windows a bit at the last minute, she said, but were grateful once the wind started howling.

Mike Hill and his wife Kristen are also recent transplants who moved from Hamburg to Punta Gorda. Hill said that while he had faith in his home, being just 40 miles east of where Ian was due to make landfall was nerve-wracking.

While Ian’s initial landing was supposed to be north of Punta Gorda near Tampa Bay, Hill said he swore when he saw the changed path late Tuesday, which caused him to land further south. The hurricane made landfall just after 3 p.m. Wednesday near Cayo Costa with sustained winds of around 150 mph.

“Our plan was always to leave because we had that option, which is really good, and I would prefer to go, and the reality is that the storm could be over in an hour, but the consequences could be 3 to 4 weeks. .could live in horror,” Hill said.

Hill said around noon Wednesday the worst part was waiting for Ian to arrive.

Deneen Kozielski is originally from Medina and has lived in Bonita Springs for 18 years now and considers herself a veteran of hurricane preparedness.

“We filled the water tanks to ensure we had usable water in the event of a power outage,” Kozielski said.

While speaking with 2 On Your Side at around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Kozielski lost power after hearing a transformer explode in the street. She said they were well prepared, however, and also had two condos above her with Buffalomen ready to accommodate her if needed.

“We packed medicine, important papers, snacks and water in case we needed to move to an upper floor,” she added.

Like many western New Yorkers, Carol Harvey is a snowbird and recently left her home in North Tonawanda to winter on Florida’s east coast. With much less damage expected on the Atlantic side, Harvey said she was hosting relatives evacuated from Venice, Florida. Venice was in an area where an 8 to 12 foot storm surge was expected.

“They came yesterday with the evacuation orders, and I invited them to come with me thinking it would be a little safer,” Harvey said.

She has another host family who stays in an Airbnb that she rents out.

Victoria Ernst, a Clarence native who lives in Tampa, traveled south earlier this week to hide out with her parents in Naples – also expecting the hurricane to make landfall further north like Mike Hill.

“As it got closer, you know, it starts to sink in, you might not have the power, you might not have the things that you’re used to everyday, so it’s a little scarier than I thought.” Ernest said.

Many western New Yorkers On Your Side spoke to mentioned the last hurricane of this size to hit Florida. Hurricane Michael struck begging as a Category 5 storm in 2018.

Trevor Lewis was supposed to leave Fort Myers Wednesday morning after a week-long visit to his grandfather’s home in Bonita Springs, Florida. He went to the Bills game in Miami and was ready to go, but was forced to weather the storm once. his flight was cancelled.

“It’s been very windy, very rainy, and then the storm surge is a big concern here. We expect up to 12 feet of storm surge in our area,” Lewis said.

For his first hurricane experience, Lewis said he was able to help a few neighbors secure their belongings and get enough gas to run their generator for 12 hours, with power outages expected across the state.

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