NORTH PORT, FL. (WFLA) — Tonia Suarez drove 2 hours to the Country Club Ridge subdivision in North Port with her airboat. She spent Friday helping stranded people leave their flooded homes.
“We just come in and do what we can do and hope that we help a little bit anyway,” she said.
Dozens of people have loaded into her boat with their belongings to escape their homes. The water still hadn’t receded Friday evening, while the surrounding communities’ resources are stretched thin in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
The North Port Police Department lost power in the storm, hindering communications and response efforts. Much of the area remains without power, water, and cell phone service.
“I’m here to gather up some of my stuff from my house that was destroyed,” said Rhonda Stackhouse, who waited at the edge of the neighborhood while loved ones helped others leave.
“You know, you got to keep the faith in God, you know. Everybody keeping together as a good community. If it wasn’t for us, I don’t know what we’d do,” she said.
Citizens have brought their own boats and kayaks to move through the neighborhood where water has inundated homes. Some who fled during the storm returned to find their houses partially submerged.
“It’s very overwhelming. It’s devastating, I’m filled with despair confusion, worry,” said Sasha Greto, who returned to find 5 feet of water in her house. She said her neighbors chose to ride out the storm inside their home, ending up on top of tables to avoid the rising waters.
“Hundreds and hundreds of people’s lives are changed forever because of this,” she said.
Sasha’s husband, Roy, feels help simply isn’t coming fast enough.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors. We’ve all basically banded together and helped each other,” Roy said.
Some people chose not to leave their flooded homes. The ones who did said they aren’t sure what comes next for them.