Minnesotans work to locate loved ones, assess damage after Ian

Published 9:05 am Saturday, October 1, 2022

By Kirsti Marohn, Minnesota Public Radio News

A Minneapolis woman is thankful for volunteers who helped rescue her elderly father from his Florida home during Hurricane Ian.

Kelly King kept in phone contact with her 74-year-old father, Doug Campbell, on Wednesday, as he waited out the storm in his mobile home in Fort Myers Beach. But as the storm closed in, things took a turn for the worse.

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“He was able to FaceTime us and he was standing in chest deep water in his house,” King said. “It was heartbreaking and scary for me, because we obviously can’t get there. He’s disabled, he’s had strokes. So it’s hard for him to get around.”

After they lost contact, King posted messages in Florida-based Facebook groups, asking for help, while her husband, Derek, tried to get information through local agencies.

A volunteer named Lauren Trahan responded that they’d found her father, and brought him to a shelter at a local high school. King said she was able to speak to him last night, and confirm that he’s OK.

“I was bawling, and saying that I was so glad that he was alive and that I loved him and I missed him,” she said.

King believes that if the strangers hadn’t stepped up to help, he would not have survived the ordeal.

“Just saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t feel like enough for saving my father’s life,” she said.

On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz responded to a request from Florida officials through an emergency compact to send eight members of the Minnesota All Hazards Incident Management Team.  The team of emergency, health and public works experts helps in a broad range of response efforts. They bring their own equipment, including cots and generators. Minnesota dispatched the team to Florida in 2017 following Hurricane Irma.

An Albert Lea couple who recently bought a home in Fort Myers said they’re fortunate that their property escaped major damage caused by the storm surge during Hurricane Ian.

Jordan and Emily Bohonek spend every other weekend at their property on the Caloosahatchee River, just across the river from downtown Fort Myers.

Jordan Bohonek flew to Miami Thursday night and drove to their home to assess the damage. He said he thinks their property was spared by the direction of the wind, but others were not as lucky.

“Coming in, it’s like a war zone,” Bohonek said. “Trees down, and people that are outside, roofs that are gone. It’s the craziest thing. Power lines that are snapped off right in the middle. Street signs are turned all the way around.”

Bohonek said their home is without power, and it may not be restored for up to 90 days.

Former Governor Arne Carlson is among the Minnesotans with property in Florida hit by Hurricane Ian. Carlson and his wife, Susan, are currently in Minnesota, but spend winters at their home on Charlotte Harbor in Punta Gorda.

Reached by phone on Friday, Carlson said neighbors have told him the property sustained damage, including part of the roof torn off.

“The wind was so hard with the rain that it pushed the water into the flooring area of the living room,” he said. “So a lot of floors have been destroyed, including ours.”

But Carlson said they were fortunate compared to many others, whose homes sustained serious damage from the storm surge and are still flooded.

“It’s going to be a long, long time in recovery,” he said.

Carlson said his wife is heading to Florida to assess the damage. He estimates it will take two years to rebuild, given the extensive destruction in Florida, and a shortage of labor.

The Minnesota Twins’ training facilities in southwest Florida escaped any substantial damage from Hurricane Ian.

The Lee County Sports Complex is home to the Twins’ spring training facilities and a year-round player development academy. It’s in Fort Myers, where Ian caused widespread flooding and destruction when it made landfall on Wednesday.

But the Twins’ facility escaped major catastrophe, other than some trees knocked down and some damage to dugouts and auxiliary playing fields.

Twins spokesperson Matt Hodson said first responders are using the Twins’ player development academy as a staging area. He said the team will be looking at ways to help assist with storm recovery efforts in the upcoming days and weeks.

“Our primary concern and focus right now is on the people of Southwest Florida, and we’re committed to doing all we can to help,” he said.

Hodson said they’ll do a structural assessment on the buildings, but don’t anticipate any delay to spring training next year.