PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WFLA) — Driving down US-41 through North Port and Port Charlotte reveals the effects of Hurricane Ian on life there. Long lines of cars at the few gas stops in town, Publix shelves empty of nearly all cold and frozen items, and vehicles with trunks open, waiting at FEMA stations for food and water.

“It was a mandatory evacuation. I’m not stupid,” said Pedro Ruiz. “They said to leave, so I left.”

After riding out Hurricane Irma, Ruiz and his wife took no chances with Hurricane Ian. They drove to Fort Lauderdale on September 27, a day before the storm hit.

“The hard part would have been staying here and living through the actual wind and things it tore up,” Ruiz said.

He returned September 30 and began cleaning up. While his house was mostly spared, his neighbor’s was not.

“Their shed, their pool cage and a lot of their roofing were all over my yard,” Ruiz explained. “We came back and, ‘Oh god, what are we missing?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, well, not too bad except for the boat.'”

Ruiz’s boat is halfway off its elevated platform, now pointing straight to the sky. His big concern now is power.

“It’s not looking good. Our transformers are down. If you can look down there, there’s the transformers, they’re on the ground,” Ruiz said, pointing down the block. “When we came up, they were like hanging over the wires and stuff.”

In the aftermath however, friends are coming to help friends.

“[We’re] trying to help out a family friend,” said Inna Kamerzan. “She’s basically stranded by herself.”

Kamerzan and her family flew into Tampa on September 30 and drove to their Airbnb in Sarasota — the power had been turned on hours earlier. She picked up gas for a family friend.

“There’s long lines at gas stations,” Kamerzan said. “We had to wait, I don’t know, about like half an hour to fill up.”

Kamerzan eventually did make her delivery, and sent photos of her friend’s home. The roof was completely blown off the garage, parts of the garage fell on the car, and the pool cage fell into the pool, like so many other homes around the area.

“They don’t know if they’ll be coming home,” Kamerzan said of the people of North Port. “Or what they could be coming home to.”

But while the hurricane brought destruction, it also sent up a swell of camaraderie.

“We’ve talked to our neighbors more in the last couple days than we have in the last year,” Ruiz said.