GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Hurricane Ian batters Florida, people there are hunkering down, including a couple with ties to West Michigan.
Tim Owens traded the lake life and Michigan’s harsh winters in Grand Haven for the tropical climate in Punta Gorda, Florida, north of Fort Myers. He said he was hoping his first experience with a hurricane would be a Category 1. Ian made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4.
“It’s the winds and the storm surge that are different than what we’re normally used to. With that, they will shut the water off, so you won’t have showers, you won’t have flushing toilets and that kind of stuff, your refrigerators,” Owens explained. “It’s not a question of if we lose power, it’s when we lose power.”
Owens said he lost power by about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday. He and his wife began using their washing machine as a cooler for food and drinks and their bathtub as a reservoir to flush the toilet.
Hurricane Charley in 2004 forced the builders of the couple’s first-floor condo to build resistant windows. The scariest concern for the Owenses is not the wind, it’s the storm surge.
“We have friends who aren’t here… (that live) up on the upstairs condos. We would go up there,” Owens explained the plan if there is flooding. “Everybody I know down here has what we refer to as a ‘go bag’: important documents, about three days’ worth of clothes. You grab it, you go upstairs and ride it out.”
Owens says he and his wife decided to stay after seeing initial forecasts predicted Ian farther north, well out of their way. By the time the projected path moved closer to them, it was too late.
“It just got to the point where we’re not going to have time to evacuate,” Owens explained. “Right now, because the winds are strong, all the bridges over the (Caloosahatchee) River and also on the Peace River… those bridges are closed. You’re not going north or south.”
Instead, it’s a patient wait-and-see as Ian strikes.
“We’re going to be fine,” Owens said. “Nothing is going to hold back the water. We’ll just play that out as it goes.”