TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As Hurricane Ian began to barrel through Sanibel, Bridgit Budd went out to her porch to watch the storm come through.
“It was definitely five times stronger than Charley — I saw the biggest trees in our yard just go right over,” Budd told NBC 2.
Although many of her friends and neighbors evacuated the island, Budd felt her home was safe enough to withstand the storm and decided to stay behind.
“I wouldn’t leave. I mean, my husband built the house. It’s hurricane safe. I wouldn’t leave because I knew I couldn’t come back,” Budd recalled. “I didn’t stay there because I wanted to go down with the ship — I stayed there because I knew nothing was going to happen to me.”
Budd said the scariest part was when the city became inundated with storm surge, and water began to cover cars, trucks and homes.
“We watched what we see on TV—people on their rooftops, people panicking, people in boats, cars floating” Budd recalled. “And we just saw it [the water] coming up, up up, and it came up to the porch we were sitting on, so that’s like 12 feet.”
Budd has remained on the island since the storm. Her home was damaged, but only on the first floor.
“We, of course, lost everything in storage,” she said.
She is still without power, but uses a generator to charge her phone in the morning. She eats canned food, which is stored in a refrigerator, and goes out to the woods to use the bathroom.
Right now, Budd is also working to reopen her restaurant, the Pecking Order, which bills itself as a soul food and a fried chicken joint, on Palm Ridge Road in Sanibel.
She said the restaurant is standing strong after the storm, but she is still waiting for a vendor to get food to the island by boat.
Budd has been documenting her recovery process in a series of videos on TikTok.
When asked if she would consider moving after the storm, Budd said, “Oh my God, no.”
“It’s an island, it will grow back. It’s what it’s used to. An island is used to hurricanes.”