homeless storm shelter downtown deland hurricane ian
HURRICANE SHELTER — Clad in his private homemade shelter, this individual sleeps on Indiana Avenue in Downtown DeLand the afternoon of Sept. 29, as Hurricane Ian made its exit from Volusia County. It is unknown whether he endured the hurricane here. The Beacon spoke with another homeless person who lives in Downtown DeLand, who told us he had walked an hour in the rain on Sept. 28 to reach the emergency shelter at DeLand High School, only to be denied entrance because he didn’t have identification. BEACON PHOTO/BARB SHEPHERD

There’s nothing like a hurricane to bring out the feelings: fear, uncertainty, even impatience and irritation. Locally, we have reason to focus on one feeling in particular: gratitude.

Lives were left waterlogged and lives were lost across the state, including in Volusia County. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, however, it’s apparent that we in West Volusia were comparatively lucky.

Apocalyptic scenes out of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and other towns remind us that every home left standing, every life not touched by disaster after a storm like Ian — historic in its size and effects — is reason to be thankful.

We are thankful, too, for the quick work by first responders and other government workers who leapt into action to save people from flooded homes and provide assistance before, during and after the storm. There are also the crews who cleaned up afterward, including the friendly neighbors with big muscles or chain saws.

For many of us, this wasn’t our first hurricane, even if it was the worst storm we’ve weathered.

Hurricane Ian was one of the largest and most intense storms to make landfall in Florida, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain onto aging infrastructure and battering homes with strong winds. And, with unchecked climate change affecting our weather, it’s likely that, sooner than we would want, Ian will be dwarfed by yet another historic storm that will slam our slice of Florida.

So what can we do to prepare?

We can learn from this storm that mostly spared West Volusia the intense effects that were predicted for us. We can assess, and do better next time.

We need to heed the warnings when people tell us to stay inside, to stay off of the roads and to stay sheltered. Too many deaths associated with storms are avoidable, preventable.

We need to know our neighbors, and know our communities. When push comes to shove, and the water is rushing in, sometimes our neighbors are all we have.

In Deltona, when Ian’s downpour was so torrential that it washed away the dirt under the roads, a person was stuck in their vehicle, and water was rushing up, one resident told The Beacon. It took several neighbors to pull them from the car, but the driver was safe.

We need to know whom to trust, who will be sharing the information we need to know. We need to brag a little on our Beacon team members, whose constant updates before, during and after the storm widely distributed important and possibly lifesaving information.

Images out of West Volusia cities showed familiar faces of those similarly devoted to keeping people informed, like mayors and city managers, in raincoats. Those people came into work ready to help when they could have stayed at home with their own probably frightened families.

Things could have been much worse. While we clean up debris and thank our neighbors and community members for their help, we have to keep our guard up and remember to refresh our supplies.

We’re stronger and smarter, thanks to Ian. Let’s put those lessons to use while they are fresh. There are still two months left of hurricane season.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here