When a powerful Category 4 hurricane strikes Florida, it’s expected that some places will flood, but the flooding that happened in West Volusia’s largest city surprised residents, many of whom were forced to evacuate their homes.
The Bon family have lived at their Dorchester Drive home for nearly a decade, and they had never seen a storm like this.
“We’ve never seen it this bad,” Anastasia Bon told The Beacon. “We’ve never seen that much rain.”
Parts of the city, per mayor Heidi Herzberg, received 13 inches of rain, and other areas are believed to have received even more.
Like many residents in Deltona, the Bon family — Anastasia, her husband, Jake, and their three daughters — prepared for the storm, but when the water started to rise, there wasn’t much they could do.
The flooding became so bad in and around the Bons’ neighborhood that, once rains calmed down Sept. 30, they had to be picked up in a family friend’s pickup.
Other families’ homes flooded so badly, including one of the Bons’ neighbors, that the National Guard had to evacuate them.
Melanie Rodriguez and her husband Kyle McSharar had their two kids — Kayle and AJ — sleep on air mattresses in their parents’ room, just in case the storm got bad. When Rodriguez woke up the morning of Sept. 29, the air mattresses were beginning to float.
“I woke up to the stench of sewage,” she said.
The water wasn’t quite up to her ankles yet, but in the time it took to pack up the essentials and call 911, it was rising. With so many other 911 calls being made, 30 minutes passed, and Rodriguez and McSharar made the tough call to evacuate.
“We grabbed the dog, we grabbed the kids, and by the time we got out of the house, it was chest deep,” she said. “Anastasia, thank God, was standing outside taking pictures, and I was screaming to her, asking if we could come over. It was like perfect timing.”
The family of four swam across Dorchester Drive, which had become a river, to get to the Bon home. They sheltered there until the National Guard arrived.
The Bon family were able to make a few trips back to the home by kayak to survey the damage and check on their animals after the storm subsided.
Thankfully, the Bons’ menagerie are all safe. That includes 10 rabbits, two chickens, three dogs, a bearded dragon, two axolotls and 13 goldfish.
“The main things are safe with us, and we’re just going to start from there and be patient,” Anastasia Bon said. “I just think, 10 years in that house. A lot of stuff’s in that house, still.”
They’ll be dealing with the resulting property damage for a long time. With any hurricane, she said, there’s only so much you can really do.
As for Rodriguez, her home is waterlogged and unlivable. Firefighters went to her home later to rescue the family’s four cats. The cats are safe and sound, but the home is done for.
“Everything is destroyed,” Rodriguez said. “The refrigerator turned over, so the meat is all rotting in the water. They said it’s all destroyed; there’s nothing salvageable in there.”
Rodriguez and her family lost everything.
Ian wasn’t Rodriguez’s first rodeo; she grew up in Deltona.
“I was here in 2004, with those back-to-back storms, and [it was] nothing like this,” she said. “We’re in Florida, we obviously have devastating storms, but not in Deltona.”
Rodriguez and the rest of her family have a place to stay, and they’re thankful for the help they’ve received from the community. She wanted to especially thank the firefighters who saved their cats. They only know the firefighters’ first names: Rob, Mat and Diante.
One Deltona death was reported by the Volusia Sheriff’s Office: A man was found dead in a canal, the Sheriff’s Office said, believed to have drowned.
“It’s definitely an event that no one has ever experienced before in this area,” Mayor Heidi Herzberg told The Beacon Sept. 29. “The higher areas did OK. I drove around a little bit ago, and there are fences down, sheds down, a few trees uprooted, but some of the lower-lying areas definitely have flooding issues.”
Like the Rodriguezes, Anastasia Bon said they prepared the best they could, but when a record-breaking storm comes knocking, there’s only so much that can be done.
“We prepare for hurricanes, we prepare for flooding. We got some sandbags and what not, but you never know until it’s here how bad it’s actually going to be, or if you could do better,” Anastasia Bon said. “You’re out of luck. We’re out of luck.”
Glimmers of positivity
Many Deltona residents’ lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Ian, but in the aftermath of the storm, there were some positive moments.
Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool, with the help of some friends and the folks from nonprofit Deltona Strong, set up her grill in front of the Fresco y Más grocery store at 1229-A Providence Blvd.
McCool and Troy Shimkus, along with Pedro and Janice Rosario, were able to serve around 400 hot dogs and burgers to people in need, including 40 power company linemen.
Asked why she got her grill loaded up to go feed Deltona, McCool said it was a no-brainer.
“Because I am a Georgia girl. Southern women cook after tragedy and trauma,” she said. “It’s nurturing, and I wanted to hug our community and let them know they were loved and it’s going to be OK. And we do that through food. It’s my love language. It’s comforting. It lets people know that you’re thinking about them.”