Englewood, Florida a ‘war zone’ after Ian’s wrath. The cleaning begins.

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – The stunned residents of Treasure Coast have begun the arduous task of cleaning up and rebuilding after the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian.

The eye of the storm landed Wednesday along this low-lying coastal area between Sarasota and Fort Myers, popular with retirees for its low-cost housing and generally mild weather. Mobile home parks sit alongside million-dollar homes.

“It’s so sad to see everything broken. I knew it was going to be bad but it made me cry a little,” said Jayme McDonald, 42, a nurse who worked through the storm and returned home after the worst. On Friday morning, McDonald’s and neighbor Rachel Allen walked their dogs through their partially flooded neighborhood near Old Englewood Boulevard.

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Allen, 34, owns a cleaning business and stayed home during the storm, which nearly shook their home. Their living room has flooded and her husband has already started tearing up the floor and walls, hoping to prevent black mold from growing in the late summer humidity.

“We are waiting to contact the insurance company. But cell service is so spotty, so it’s just kind of an expectation,” she said.

A few blocks away, Kevin Pruett, 42, inspected the massive pine tree that had collapsed in the yard of his two-story home. Pruett regretted not having evacuated and is worried about how long it will take to restore electricity and running water. People are already hoarding drinking water and looking in vain for gas, in some cases drawing water from retention basins to flush their toilets.

Streets remained flooded in Englewood, Florida on Friday, September 30, 2022, after Hurricane Ian.

“You’re talking weeks or months to go electric,” Pruett said. “There aren’t enough materials or workers in the world to do it any faster.”

As of Friday morning, about 1.9 million customers in Florida were without power, officials said.

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Like many locals who survived the storm, Pruett said he believed it would have forever altered the social fabric of the area. All around him, mobile homes tipped on their sides, steel traffic signs folded over like paper. More than a foot of water – with two alligators, officials said – is blocking one of the main roads.

“It looks like a war zone. You feel like you are in Ukraine. It’s disgusting. It will take months to recover, years,” said Don Brockley, 76, who has lived in the area for 20 years. “For the elderly, it will be difficult. hurricane for life.

Brockley and dozens of others waited outside a Lowe’s home improvement store early Friday, trading rumors that there were generators or plywood in stock.

Residents gathered outside a Lowe's store Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, to gather supplies to begin cleaning their homes after Hurricane Ian in Englewood, Florida.

Bill Fairbairn, 63, was hoping to buy tarps to cover a space where his carport ripped from his mobile home, exposing the room to the outdoors. Fairbairn moved to Florida from upstate New York a year ago to escape the snow and cold.

“It was great until yesterday,” he laughed. “I’m one of the few luckier ones. For some people it blew up the walls and some places just crumbled. At least mine is still standing.”

Sitting on the patio in front of his Florida Pines Mobile Home Court home, Monty Covert puffed out a cigarette and waited for his brother-in-law to return with beer. Asking for the time – 7:15am – Covert good-naturedly complained that the liquor store should have opened 15 minutes earlier.

Covert is retired from the Navy, sailing around the world on a tugboat. He attributes his military service to his ability to adapt to the drastically changed neighborhood and his somewhat fatalistic approach to life. Covert had planned to evacuate, but early winds toppled trees on either side of the driveway, blocking his escape. He slept through the storm.

“I said I’d get up alive or not at all,” Covert said. And then it does.

Monty Covert sits on the porch of his mobile home in Englewood, Florida surveying the damage to his neighborhood after Hurricane Ian on Friday, September 30, 2022.

Covert said the only damage to his home was the loss of the metal porch roof, crediting the mobile home with building from stronger materials five decades ago. For him, the worst damage came after he decided to drive his truck through the storm surge to check on his ex-wife. He got stuck in deep water, he said, and because he can’t walk well, good Samaritans had to carry him to safety 300 meters away.

He now regrets going to see her. And he wonders if he should repair the damage or collect an insurance check.

“Are you rebuilding or just condemning the place and moving on?” he asked, stubbing out his cigarette.

Later in the morning, Pruett again surveyed the damage – from submerged cars to downed power lines and trees crossing roads, yards and driveways.

Pruett said he normally splits his time between landscaping and crypto mining, but with the power outage he will be spending less time in front of the computer in the coming days.

“Time to rock the chainsaw.”

More Hurricane Ian coverage

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