HARDEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Between 15 and 20 inches of rain are estimated to have fallen in Wauchula during Hurricane Ian, sending the Peace River several feet over flood levels.

The river burst into people’s homes after Ian had blown through Thursday.

“The morning after, the early morning hours, it was as though the tide came in,” said Clyde Ratliff. “Never, ever, ever seen the water get to the level that it is now. It’s just surreal.”

In his 59 years in Wauchula, Ratliff has never seen anything like it. He calls it “hell on earth.”

“You close your eyes and I can see nothing but the water in the house. It’s in your brain,” he said. “You need to go to sleep. You can’t go to sleep. It’s been like two days. I’ve probably slept an hour and a half.”

As the water rose, he and his girlfriend Angie Coleman escaped with his pickup truck on a friendly neighbor’s flatbed trailer.

They returned to their home near Peace River Park Friday by boat, floating by a submerged pickup truck on their way.

“That was a resident trying to help others out. He was trying to get them to dry land and missed the road,” said Coleman.

The pair waded through the water inside their home, collecting belongings and checking conditions.

“I don’t think people can truly understand what water can do,” said Coleman.

They believe the water has started to recede.

A couple blocks away, people do not have any belongings left to dig through and it is not due to flood waters.

“Fire was definitely, least of our worries,” said Glen Ellis.

Ellis lives at Valencia Gardens apartments in Wauchula. He was sheltering in his bathroom with his fiancée and baby when Hurricane Ian was at its worst.

“I said ‘hey, do you smell that?’ I smelled smoke, got up, didn’t’ smell anything. Bent over, smelled it again. I was like, ‘man, something’s on fire.’ I open the door and the whole apartment was just an orange glow,” said Ellis.

Ellis says he believes a downed power line somehow sparked a fire that took down his entire building Wednesday.

Residents say everybody got out in time.

“I’m grateful that I still have my family to hold onto because it could have went way south,” said Michael Campbell, Ellis’ family member who lives in the apartments but was not there at the time of the fire.

The residents of Wauchula are dealing with fire and floods at the same time, but they are doing it together.

“We just ask people to pray. That’s all we can do,” said Teresa Staton, whose house is flooded.