COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The road to recovery is just beginning for Hurricane Ian victims, who are finally starting to see how bad the damage really is.
Central Ohio natives currently living in southwest Florida rode out the storm in their homes, with one saying it was the most terrifying experience of her life. The other woman evacuated the area and said she is still waiting to see how bad the damage really is.
Pataskala native Cindy Vanagas said she, her husband, and their two dogs went into shelter for Hurricane Ian at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“There were frequent, very strong wind busts,” she said. “It would just shake the whole house and even if you were leaning against the wall of the interior closet, it just shook.”
Vanagas said they stayed in the closet for eight hours as the eye of the storm passed right over her home in Punta Gorda, Florida.
“We lost our barn roof and our daughter, her husband lost his workshop, but a lot of people lost roofs to their carports, barns, things like that,” she said. “But other people, of course, lost everything.”
Debbie Crum bought a home in Fort Myers, Florida, in January of this year, and said she watched the storm from afar in her home in Lancaster, Ohio, feeling helpless.
“I told you my neighbor stayed in her place for the hurricane, so she called me when the first wall of the hurricane went around,” Crum said. “She called me and said ‘I think we are OK.’”
Crum said that changes in a matter of hours.
“She sent me a picture of the water coming through her air conditioner vent and then she called me and said, ‘Deb, it’s really bad. I’m getting up on my refrigerator.’”
Crum said from what they know so far around five feet of water got into her house.
Crum and her family will be heading to Fort Myers Sunday morning to see the damage for the first time with their own eyes.
“One minute, you are in hopeful mode,” she said. “Hopefully we are going to go down there and everything is going to be OK, it’s not going to be that much water, it will be really easy to do. And then the conversation starts turning to we are going to have to figure out how to get drywall down there, how to get trim down there, how to get flooring down there.”
Crum said she feels blessed to know that her house is still standing. She said what hurts the most is knowing that the beach and restaurants she spent so much time at are now gone and it will take years to rebuild.
Both women said there is a huge need for help right now in southwest Florida.
To donate to the victims of Hurricane Ian, click here.