Hurricane Ian's storm damage is impacting former Ohio residents

As a mother, Kate Currier is living one of her worst nightmares.

The 37-year-old who lives near Mansfield was nervously awaiting phone updates Thursday from her son, Connor Currier, who lives more than 1,000 miles away in Fort Myers, Florida as he figured out his next move after Hurricane Ian ravaged the city Wednesday.

Her son is a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers but had been staying at a family friends' summer home during the storm. With the power out now, however, he indicated that he's planning to drive almost an hour to his friend's house in Naples, Kate Currier said Thursday morning.

"But he's not even sure he can get there," she said.

The fly tower of Venice Little Theater was destroyed by winds from Hurricane Ian in downtown Venice, Florida.
The fly tower of Venice Little Theater was destroyed by winds from Hurricane Ian in downtown Venice, Florida.

Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's southwestern coast Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history, tearing apart homes and buildings and leaving some residents stranded as storm surge flooded communities, USA Today reported.

The storm made landfall near Cayo Costa as a Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds measured at a stunning 150 mph — only 7 mph slower than a Category 5, the highest status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale of Hurricane Intensity. It slowed as it lashed the state and was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center reported.

More than 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses were without power early Thursday.

With many former Ohioans living in Florida for work, retirement or school, some are experiencing their first hurricane. While some chose to leave the state before the storm hit, others stayed and waited.

Riding out the storm in Fort Myers, Longwood

One of the hardest hit areas was Fort Myers, where Connor Currier decided to ride out the storm in a condo. His mother reported that the place remained dry and that only one window was blown out.

"He did leave the condo this morning and started to drive back towards campus," Kate Currier said Thursday. "He says the campus is OK, but everything around it is gone."

He told his mother that the neighborhood where the condo is located also was destroyed.

"Trees are uprooted, everything around him had been destroyed, as far as other houses, other condo complexes," she said. "There were cars on top of roofs, roofs were taken off."

“I’m very overwhelmed and not sure what to expect and I’m very nervous for my son,” she said.

Also riding out the storm was Donna Huntzinger, her husband, Nick, and their two sons, who used to live in Columbus and moved about a year ago. The four of them now live in Longwood, Florida, near Orlando, and while the area did not get hit as badly as Fort Myers, they still experienced high winds and lots of rain, Huntzinger said.

This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Fort Myers, Florida.
This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Fort Myers, Florida.

The 56-year-old said she was feeling a little anxious Wednesday, but knew the hurricane wouldn't be as strong in the inland areas. Huntzinger bought a generator just in case, however, and the device ended up coming in handy, as the family lost power.

"I didn't sleep real well last night. ... There's branches that hit our windows, so that was a little scary," she said Thursday.

Huntzinger said the storm calmed down, but the area was still experiencing rain and high winds.

“I looked out and there’s all kinds of tree branches scattered through my yard, and there are some trees down in the neighborhood, but nothing around me, thank goodness," she said.

Hurricane Ian relief:Ohio Task Force 1, AEP Ohio, Red Cross head south to help

More:Here's how you can help victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida

Making the drive back to Ohio

Meanwhile, Mary Lee Scott and her husband, Larsen Scott, decided to leave their apartment in Rotonda West, near Fort Myers, ahead of the hurricane and drove to Powell to stay with their daughter, Lee Johnson. The two left Tuesday morning, stayed in Alabama for the night, and made it to Ohio Wednesday night.

The Scotts lived with their daughter before moving to Florida about eight years ago after Larsen Scott retired.

Mary Lee Scott said a neighbor in Florida who had decided to stay home was keeping her updated about their apartment complex. The 76-year-old found out the power in the complex has been out since Wednesday, water was cut off Thursday morning and flood water had reached the buildings.

Mary Lee Scott said she has since lost touch with the neighbor due to power outages.

"I don't know what we're going back to, so we're just going to stay here until somebody says, 'Yep, you can move back into your apartment,'" she said.

Live updates:Tropical Storm Ian pounds Florida as death toll mounts; 2.6M without power

Wexner Medical Center doctor helping those in need

Moving in the opposite direction was Dr. Nicholas Kman, an emergency medicine physician for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who arrived in Florida Wednesday. He is part of a group of medical and fire personnel for the search-and-rescue team Ohio Task Force 1.

While the team was in the northern part of the state, they planned to move into the storm area Thursday to begin helping victims, he said.

Kman said this is the fifth hurricane to which he has responded. He also took on missions for hurricanes Harvey, Dorian, Laura and Ida.

He said being a part of the task force gives him another opportunity to help people.

"There's going to be a lot of people who have lost shelter or been separated from their family or pets, so in helping them, it can be a very rewarding feeling," Kman said.

mwalker@dispatch.com

@micah_walker701

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Hurricane Ian is impacting former Ohio residents living in Florida