Originally from the frigid plains of Michigan, Keith and his wife Tinka Bucholtz spent each winter in Florida and settled there permanently four years ago, in Fort Myers on the east coast of the peninsula. When Hurricane Ian struck, the two retirees did not evacuate. They sought refuge with their daughter. A house on the lagoon, but made of concrete, insulated and elevated with storm windows. No danger, they thought as the eye of the storm hit land. “We couldn’t even hear the wind inside”explains Keith Wucholtz sitting on his veranda, at 24 degrees and the autumn sun that has become bright again.
The house didn’t move, but that counted without the rising water on that disastrous Wednesday, September 28th. The water rises almost two meters until it touches the first floor. Tinka Buchholtz does not know whether the water will continue to rise. “Of course I thought I was going to die. In these moments we have time to play. This hurricane took me ten years. I will never come back to live in Florida.” assures the seventy-year-old. The couple’s home, unlike their daughter’s, is destroyed. It is decided they will return to settle in their native Michigan, just north of Grand Rapids.
With this hurricane, it wasn’t the wind that surprised. It has sown devastation in its path, but in an expected way: By beefing up its anti-hurricane standards, the most stringent in the country, Florida has built structures that are getting better and better at withstanding. However, the bridges leading to the neighboring islands of Sanibel and Pine Island have been washed away. But homes built to Florida standards have endured while shabby log cabins and RVs have been blown away, coconut palms have been uprooted and trees have been uprooted.
The road is flooded by the sea
No, the unexpected phenomenon refers to the rising water created by the cyclone low, reinforced by a high tide, the winds and the shallow depth of the bay. For example, Keith Cunnigham, 74, a retired Delaware contractor, didn’t really fear for his life: His solid two-story home is where he stayed throughout the storm. Suddenly, while the hurricane is at its peak, he receives a call from his neighbors, a couple in their 70s: they only have one floor and they ask to take refuge with him. He sees them crossing the sea-flooded street, lashed by winds at over 100 km/h, from the water to above the waistline. “I thought they wouldn’t make it” he says in his garage, defending the right to carry guns on the head.
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