After Hurricane Ian, “I will never live in Florida again”

Originally from the frozen plains of Michigan, Keith and his wife Tinka Bucholtz used to spend every winter in Florida and settled there for good four years ago, in Fort Myers, on the east coast of the peninsula. When Hurricane Ian hit, the two retirees did not evacuate. They went to take refuge with their daughter. A house next to the lagoon, but made of concrete, insulated with anticyclonic windows and elevated. There is no danger, they thought, when the eye of the storm made landfall. “We couldn’t even hear the wind inside”explains Keith Wucholtz, sitting on his porch, 24 degrees and an autumn sun that has shone again.

The house did not move, but that counted without the rising waters, on this disastrous Wednesday, September 28. The water rises, almost two meters, until it touches the first floor. Tinka Buchholtz doesn’t know if the waters will continue to rise. “Of course I thought I was going to die. We have time to bet right now. This hurricane took me ten years. I will never live in Florida again.” assures the septuagenarian. The couple’s house, unlike their daughter’s, is destroyed. It is decided, they will settle back in their native Michigan, north of Grand Rapids.

In this hurricane, it wasn’t the wind that surprised. It sowed desolation in its wake, but in an expected way: By dint of tightening its hurricane regulations, the strictest in the country, Florida has built structures that are increasingly resistant. Certainly, the bridges leading to the neighboring islands of Sanibel and Pine Island have been washed away. But homes built to Florida standards have remained, while dilapidated wooden shacks and RVs have been blown away, coconut palms have been uprooted and trees uprooted.

The street invaded by the sea

No, the unexpected phenomenon is related to the rising waters, created by the cyclonic depression, amplified by a high tide, the winds and the shallow depth of the bay. So Keith Cunnigham, 74, a retired businessman from Delaware, didn’t really fear for his life: His sturdy house is two stories, and he stayed there during the storm, too. Suddenly, as the hurricane reaches its peak, he receives a phone call from his neighbors, a septuagenarian couple: they only have one apartment and ask to take refuge in his house. He sees them, crossing the street invaded by the sea, whipped by winds greater than 100 km / h, from the water to above the belt. “I thought they wouldn’t make it” he says in his garage, cap defending the right to bear arms on his head.

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