COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — First responders and power crews from central Ohio are in Florida, helping with rescue efforts from the devastation of Hurricane Ian.
Here in Ohio, there are many with close ties to the area, like a HuA professor at the Ohio State University who dedicated two decades to the devastated island of Sanibel.
Judie Zimomra is an Ohio native and, a year ago, she served as the city manager of the island. She said it’s devastating to see the damage and danger from Hurricane Ian.
“When an island is wiped clean — you’re starting from ground zero,” she said.
Judie Zimomra said devastation and catastrophic are not strong enough words to describe what Sanibel Island and cities across Southern Florida look like now that Hurricane Ian has passed. Up until a year ago, Sanibel Island was home to her and preparing for disasters was part of her job.
“Where people are now posting pictures of family members that they have not heard from them or the last they heard from them they were headed to the attic and water was reaching the top of the structure they were in so there are many, many nervous people,” Zimomra said.
Zimomra used to be the city manager. She said Hurricane Ian will forever change the gulf coast. From a preparedness point, she said, there are a lot of questions — how will the storm change building codes, how close people can live to the ocean and future construction.
“The Sanibel Causeway is going to be one of them, you probably aren’t going to rebuild it the way it was. People are going to try and see what would be the proper — it was built so it would withstand a hurricane and you see it was faulty.”
There are Ohioans with boots on the ground in Florida. Ohio Task Force 1 has one team already in Florida and another 35 members activated Thursday. Westerville Electric was pre-positioned ahead of the storm and was sent to Orlando. AEP arrived in Georgia and were going through safety briefings Thursday morning.
“They will need every type of help possible and not just for a day and not just for a week, but this is going to be a multiyear recovery,” she said about the aid.
Zimomra said she expects the rescue phase of this storm take quite some time and those efforts will be slowed because of the widespread damage.