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What the past 12 hours have been like for one Floridian


At one point, Hurricane Ian was feared to directly hit the Tampa Bay region, where Chelsea Rivera is a Ph.D. student in St. Petersburg. So she went south to shelter with her parents in Sarasota.


Hurricane Ian actually landed more south, meaning that Chelsea Rivera's evacuation plan actually brought her closer to the storm's center and its Category 4 winds.

CHELSEA RIVERA: I see palm trees swaying back and forth. The scariest part is probably the wind. It's - like you said, it's going 150 miles an hour. It's shaking the house.


RIVERA: Rain is pelting, you know, the windows.

CHANG: Last night, I spoke to her just hours after the eye of the hurricane had made landfall. But the hurricane was not done with southwest Florida yet.

RIVERA: I want to say it was dinner time. The winds were crazy, sounded like a freight train. I was up - probably up until, like, 1 o'clock in the morning. And even then, I could hear the wind. And it kind of kept me up last night, to be quite honest. It was just - it was scary. And every time the wind blew, you could just feel the house shaking. So we were very scared that, you know, the glass was going to break in our house, you know, on the windows that weren't boarded up. So it was scary.

SUMMERS: She eventually did get some sleep. And when she woke up this morning...

RIVERA: It was quiet. So I was relieved that the storm was gone, was my first thought.

SUMMERS: Her second thought?

RIVERA: I was a little bit nervous to go outside just to see how bad the damage was. It actually took out half of our fence and then also, I think, the fence of our neighbor as well. But luckily, my entire neighborhood - yeah, there were trees down. The house across the street, their palm tree is completely destroyed. But other than that, everybody's safe. And the damage wasn't that bad.

SUMMERS: Damage might not be that bad in her parents' neighborhood in Sarasota, which was not in an evacuation zone, but where she lives in St. Petersburg, that may be a different story.

RIVERA: I have no clue. We're on the third floor, so I don't think our apartment was hit by flooding. But we're actually on an island, so I can assume that that entire island is underwater right now. And there's probably - I have no access to that, to my apartment, at least for a while now. I'm just afraid it's completely underwater.

CHANG: Now, the center of the storm hit about 50 miles south of Sarasota, close to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Those areas saw massive flooding and storm surge.

SUMMERS: But right now in Sarasota, the storm has passed.

RIVERA: It's actually pretty beautiful out, surprisingly. It's been extremely hot. It doesn't really look like there was a hurricane. It's just, you know, trees are down everywhere. So that's kind of been the only reminder.

SUMMERS: That's Chelsea Rivera, a student in southwest Florida. We'll have more coverage of Hurricane Ian elsewhere in the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Karen Zamora
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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