A Florida couple ponder the place to go after shedding their Fort Myers Seashore dwelling : NPR

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Jim and Susan Helton sit int he again of a automobile exterior a lodge in Fort Myers, Fla. Their dwelling in Fort Myers seashore was destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Carlos Osorio for NPR


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Carlos Osorio for NPR


Jim and Susan Helton sit int he again of a automobile exterior a lodge in Fort Myers, Fla. Their dwelling in Fort Myers seashore was destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Carlos Osorio for NPR

FORT MYERS, FLA. — No place in Florida appeared to have suffered extra injury from Hurricane Ian than the city of Fort Myers Seashore, situated on Estero Island alongside the state’s southwest coast.

One official who flew over the group estimates that 80% of the buildings should be rebuilt. Ian battered the barrier island with a 12-foot storm surge and winds close to 150 miles per hour. The bridge to the island was broken within the storm and has now been closed. Residents who evacuated and have been briefly capable of return to their properties are shocked by how little stays.

Susan and Jim Helton are in Fort Myers now, at a lodge the place there is not any energy or water. However they really feel fortunate they received a room right here after their dwelling was demolished within the storm. It was Ian’s storm surge that did the injury.

That, Jim Helton says, and the boat he discovered in the course of his home. It demolished his sunroom and opened the home to the weather. He has no thought whose boat it’s or what it is going to take to take away it and the remainder of the rubble that was his dwelling. “It would in all probability be there for six months or a yr,” he says, “as a result of so many locations have been hit.”

The Heltons’ house is on the again bay in Fort Myers Seashore, a part of a boating group that is now gone. They left the island earlier than the storm and stayed with a pal. The following day, Jim returned, fearful about what he would possibly discover.

He tried to remain optimistic, however when he noticed the boat inside his home and the injury accomplished by the surge, his coronary heart sank. “It was exhausting to get in there as a result of the couches and all the pieces floated up, all blended collectively.”

“And the washer,” his spouse Susan provides. The surge picked up all the pieces in the home: furnishings, heavy home equipment, a golf cart, “and books,” Susan says, “all my books.”

Jim Helton has been in Florida greater than 40 years. He constructed a profitable enterprise on Captiva, one other close by island devastated by the storm. He is 84, lengthy since retired and now shouldn’t be positive what to do subsequent. Like the home, all of the couple’s plans have been scrambled and destroyed by the hurricane.

“We have been going to promote [the house] this winter,” Jim says. “I received over there in the present day and there was a be aware by the espresso machine, ‘Name the gross sales girl.’ And that harm.” It is a blow he is undecided he can get better from. “I am hanging in,” he says. “I am combating despair. I might cry proper now however I am not.”

Destroyed homes and buildings are seen in Fort Myers Seashore, Fla., on Friday.

Tom James for WGCU/NPR


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Tom James for WGCU/NPR


Destroyed homes and buildings are seen in Fort Myers Seashore, Fla., on Friday.

Tom James for WGCU/NPR

Tens of hundreds in Florida have been displaced

All through southwest Florida, there are tens of hundreds of individuals displaced by Hurricane Ian with tales just like the Heltons. In some communities, properties spared within the storm are actually flooding from rain-swollen rivers. Some 10,000 individuals stay in shelters.

A disaster modeling firm estimates that insured losses shall be over $60 billion and complete damages might exceed $100 billion. If these numbers maintain up, Ian can be the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. historical past.

On Fort Myers Seashore, Jim believes it is going to be at the least a decade earlier than the island group is rebuilt. He would not anticipate to be round to see it. Within the meantime, he and his spouse are occupied with Texas. “I’ve a son over there,” he says, “and he would not like Florida.” Susan says, “Neither do I a lot now in the present day.”

Susan Helton has skilled trauma earlier than. She’s a former New Yorker and was in Manhattan on 9/11. “I assumed, you gave me one catastrophe, do not push it. However guess what, a better energy got here in and stated, ‘Go forward, press that button yet one more time and see if she will take it.’ ”

Jim says he is additionally considered God, the problem he is been given and whether or not he is nonetheless as much as it. “I’ve had a superb life and he threw me this curve. I am alive,” Jim says, after which laughs. “We’ll see what occurs tomorrow. As a result of I am nearly out of gasoline.”

The Heltons say they’re staying in Florida simply till they can make the mandatory connections with FEMA. They are saying they will get rid of a property they cherished, however which, like a lot else on Fort Myers Seashore, is now gone without end.

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