News

Hurricane Ian strikes, leaving horrible damage to Wadsworth alumni homes

BY LEZLIE TINNEY AND ALEX BANKS

Two former members of the Wadsworth community have survived Hurricane Ian with massive damage to their property. Hurricane Ian struck West Florida on September 28, flooding and damaging areas across the state. Many people have, or continue to evacuate. 

Alyssa Baxley, a Wadsworth High School Alumni who graduated in 2018, and Dylan Joseph, who went to Wadsworth City Schools until his freshman year, were both in Florida when the hurricane hit and both survived damage to their homes. 

Baxley, who is the daughter of Wadsworth High School math teacher Mary Beth Baxley, has lived in Orlando, Florida for four years and has never experienced a storm this bad before. 

The lake behind Baxley’s house was used as a reservoir, so that when it rained a lot, all of the rain would go there and it would drain. However, this time, it did not drain because the had pump stopped working. 

“The whole thing filled up with water, and the water filled up the parking lot,” Alyssa Baxley said. “Then, there was water coming in on both sides.”

Within about twenty minutes, the water was up to her knees. No one thought Orlando would get hit as bad as it did.

After Alyssa Baxley safely left her apartment to a higher level, she took a picture of the cars in the complex’s parking lot. The water had backed up quickly from the reservoir, flood the cars and first floor apartments. Photo courtesy of Mary Beth Baxley

“My car was completely underwater, there was no way of me getting out,” Baxley said. “I was prepared for the lights to go out, and to lose phone service but I was not prepared to have to evacuate my house.”

She grabbed her backpack, wallet, and laptop. Then, she got her two cats and her guinea pig into their carriers and prepared to leave. 

“When I went to open the door, there was a rush of water, and it just hits you,” Baxley said. 

She was almost knocked over because of the amount of water waiting for her and a force that was so great she could barely get the door to her house closed. 

“I watched a whole car being pushed down the road by water,” Baxley said. 

As she struggled to stay stable, she climbed up the stairs of her complex and looked for neighbors that could provide safety. She knew she was in a life or death situation and she needed help. 

“I had never talked to my upstairs neighbors before and they just opened their door and they let me in,” Baxley said. 

Rescue boats came to help her and others staying in her complex. Luckily, she had a friend she could go to stay with. 

Baxley has never experienced a storm like this before. She is used to tropical storms, which are severe, but not uncommon. Before she knew Hurricane Ian was going to hit, she thought that it was only going to be a tropical storm.

“They never really knew where it was bad,” Baxley said. “That was also the scary part, not knowing what was happening with this storm, and when it hit Orlando, it was a tropical storm. It wasn’t even a hurricane. And the amount of water, it was everywhere. I’ve never seen so much water in my life.”

Once people realized how bad Hurricane Ian was hitting others, they started to worry. However, Baxley and her neighbors could not leave at that point because the outerband of the hurricane was hitting them at the time. 

She has not yet been able to go back to her home and officials do not think the water will recede until Monday, but she is trying to keep low expectations and does not believe that anything will be able to be salvaged.

“It’s a really weird feeling not having any possessions,” Baxley said. 

Once people found out what happened, they just stepped forward and offered help. 

“I’m very, very, very, very lucky,” Baxley said.  I am way better off than a lot of people right now and I know that. It’s crazy to say because I don’t have a house, I don’t have a car, I don’t have anything to my name other than my animals and myself.”

Dylan Joseph, who moved away from Ohio a few years ago, lives in Punta Gorda, Florida, and, fortunately for Joseph, he and his family made it out securely.

“We are all safe,” Joseph said. “My dad is actually in Ohio visiting family and me, and my mom evacuated more inland. My brother ended up staying at the house but didn’t get hurt at all.”

Dylan Joseph shared video footage of the damage from Hurricane Ian to his family home in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Joseph thinks that no one knew how hard the hurricane would hit them until it was too late. Ian’s path was hard to predict and it was constantly changing. Joseph and his mother evacuated to a hotel, which ended up flooding; they have lost power during the last two days.

“We’ve had to conserve water and our phone batteries as much as we could,” Joseph said. “It’s been very boring. Fortunately, the place we evacuated to didn’t face much damage. But that can’t be said for my town.”

Punta Gorda faced the eye of the hurricane, which is the strongest part of the storm.

“We had to board the whole house up with storm shutters which protected it until winds reached 80 mph,” Joseph said. “That’s when our covered porch flew off and hit the front of our house, shattering all the clay shingles.”

Not only were the structures destroyed, but household interiors were permanently damaged. It will be very difficult for people to afford rebuilding their homes. Photo courtesy of Dylan Joseph

After the porch flew away, the wind was able to rip off the storm shutters. Then, the doors began to fall off due to the hurricane. By the time this happened, winds were up to 110 miles per hour and Joseph’s house was shaking violently.
“Since there was no barrication, all that wind and rain was getting inside the house,” Joseph said.

His house began to flood, leaving his brother’s room as the only safe spot.“[My brother] had to grab our dog and barricade himself and it was okay,” Joseph said. “He ended up being okay.”

The homes of people in his county were extremely damaged. This is just a fraction of the damage in all of Florida. Photo courtesy of Dylan Joseph

The majority of people who the hurricane has hit are without power. The damages for the whole county were very intense. Across the state of Florida, it is being estimated that there is over $40 billion in damages.

“My whole county has only four percent of it with electricity,” Joseph said. “We’re not going to be able to get electricity for at least a week because the whole system needs to be redone because it was all destroyed.”

According to Joseph, everyone’s home has faced around the same amount of damage that his has, and many people are struggling greatly.

“There’s not really many resources out there right now because every one is in dire need,” Joseph said.

Worsening the situation, his town had already been experiencing bad inflation.

“A really bad thing about our area right now is that ever since COVID has happened, inflation has been really strong here,” Joseph said. “Everyone has been coming in and there has been a material shortage. So before all the damage was done here, to get new windows, to get new doors, it was already six months out, but now everyone needs them, because everyone’s homes got destroyed.”

In addition, many people’s cars were destroyed. He does not think that there are any trees left standing in his area because they have all fallen over due to the disaster.

People in his area will be out of their homes for at least six months. Joseph and many others are incredibly shaken up by what they have been through, and they are anxiously awaiting for things to be back to normal, although that may be a long way away.

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