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One resident of Englewood, Florida, wants questions answered before rebuilding from Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian destroyed resident Cathy Nicely’s mobile home in Englewood, Florida. (Catherine Welch/Here & Now)
Hurricane Ian destroyed resident Cathy Nicely’s mobile home in Englewood, Florida. (Catherine Welch/Here & Now)

More than a week after Hurricane Ian, Floridians are still learning the extent of its damage.

The hurricane wiped away mobile homes in Englewood, Florida, about an hour north of Fort Meyers.

At the Holiday Estates mobile home park, Cathy Nicely returned to her home and found a metal sign with a quote in the grass between her and her neighbor’s house.

“It says, ‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there,’ Theodore Rosevelt,” says Nicely. “I don’t know who it belongs to, but I thought it was appropriate.”

She took it as a sign “for everybody to take a breath,” she says, “and hopefully we can rebuild without a lot of issues.”

However, it’s hard to imagine where the rebuilding would begin at the mobile home park.

One home after another barely stands. There are homes with roofs shredded and torn off, windows blown out and metal everywhere. The debris includes wires, furniture and household items. The smell of rotting trash floats through the air.

Piles of metal lines the streets of the Holiday Estates mobile home park in Englewood, Florida as residents start to rebuild from Hurricane Ian. (Catherine Welch/Here & Now)

Compared to nearby neighborhoods where tree limbs line the streets, here piles of twisted metal sit at the curb. Nicely and her husband haven’t started to clear their lot, so there isn’t much of a pile in front of their home.

Stepping over wires and glass she walks around to her backyard covered with debris.

“All you’re seeing is piles of metal, and nobody has moved anything. This is what the wind did, this is where it put it,” Nicely says. “It’s my roof, their roof [and] who knows whose roof.”

Power lines run across her grass. Insulation, patio furniture and household items cover the washer and dryer that tumbled onto the patio.

Most of what was inside of Cathy Nicely’s mobile home in Englewood, Florida was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. (Catherine Welch/Here & Now)

Before the storm, Nicely lived in a creamy white home with a neatly trimmed yard and palm trees out front. Her in-laws lived here for years before Nicely and her husband moved from Ohio and made it their home.

Her brother lives in a mobile home park nearby. He lost everything in the storm, she says.

“When I think about it real hard all I want to do is cry. Because it’s just overwhelming,” she says. “It’s overwhelming thinking about ours, thinking about my brother’s, thinking about my neighbors, that I don’t know when I’ll see them again.”

Nicely and her husband happened to be in Ohio when the hurricane hit. They saw photos of the damage outside of their home before returning to Florida. What she didn’t expect upon arrival was to find the inside also in shambles.

“The roof came down from the back bedroom, through the bathroom, through the hall and the kitchen,” Nicely says. “It stayed over the living room.”

Hurricane Ian tore the roof off of Cathy Nicely’s mobile home in Englewood, Florida, flooding the inside. (Catherine Welch/Here & Now)

Somehow the sofa stayed dry, but rain poured into the kitchen causing the cabinets to start sliding off the wall.

“Every time I walk back in, a little bit more of the ceiling has fallen,” she says.

Nicely describes her mobile home community as a friendly place mostly filled with retirees who help each other. She says some of her neighbors are getting calls from real estate agents looking to buy them out. For now, she isn’t selling. She wants to rebuild, but she only has limited information about how to do so.

“It’d just be nice to get somebody who can give us the facts as to what can be done,” she says.

The couple doesn’t have insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding. Nicely says it was too expensive. And even if they wanted it, their older home likely wouldn’t have qualified for coverage. So now, she and her husband wait to find out what FEMA will cover. They’re unsure who to call, how the process works and what they should do next.

“If you have signed up for FEMA okay, do you need to leave it the way it looks or can you go ahead and start cleaning up and they can still come in and look?,” she wonders.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the hurricane hit, and scores of power crews still roam the streets of Englewood putting power lines back up. Residents say volunteers have helped clean out flooded homes and cut down fallen trees.

Nicely and her husband packed everything they could salvage into their two cars. They’re now driving it all back to Ohio. But they’ll be back, she says, once they have answers to how they can rebuild their life in Florida.

Nicely is grateful for everything people have done to help Englewood, “but don’t forget us, we’re still here, we’re still going through this, we’re still trying to find the answers to everything,” she says.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.