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People assess mobile home damage in North Fort Myers

A North Fort Myers mobile home in the path of Hurricane Ian
Mike Walcher
A North Fort Myers mobile home in the path of Hurricane Ian. Neighbors said the people living here had evacuated, but returned Thursday to survey damage, and were devastated by what they found.

People are assessing the damage to mobile homes in North Fort Myers and other parts of the region. Some people rode out Hurricane Ian in their manufactured homes, despite evacuation orders to leave.

Ernie McFall said the roof in his home started leading, and then began peeling away at the height of Hurricane Ian's wind. He feared the worst.

"I lost my wife six years ago and I thought: I'm gong to see her," McFall said. "But I am here. Now I got to deal with all this."

Allen Ferguson also was in a mobile home during the storm. He said he didn't want to leave because he was not sure whether a shelter would allow his dog. He said he was frightened when a window shattered, and the wind rushed in.

"I thought we were going to die," Ferguson said. "But God loves fools. What can I tell you? I guess we were just lucky."

The roof on Ferguson's home sustained some damaged, he said, but it did not blow off or collapse.

Some homes near Ferguson's location did sustain heavy damage. One lost the roof, and then the door blew out, according to Ferguson. That allowed the wind to rush in and take the place apart. The people who live there had left before the storm.

Ferguson said they returned briefly Thursday afternoon to inspect damage, and he said they were devastated by what they saw. The home next to that one also sustained heavy roof and other structural damage.

Mobile home parks are littered with piles of aluminum, most of it twisted by the wind. Residents are loading up the debris alongside roads for eventual pickup by debris-clearing crews.

Ernie McFall said he may have had enough.

"I can say to hell with it and get out of this damn area," he said. "I've been here since 1983 and seen a lot of damn hurricanes. But this was the worst."

Through all the loss and damage, some Southwest Floridians are pulling together to help each. Ferguson said one neighbor in his area pulled out a big grill Thursday afternoon and cooked a huge amount of meat for anyone who was hungry.

Shawn Fleck did the same in another neighborhood in North Fort Myers. He rode out the storm in his home, which is not a manufactured home, but rather concrete block. He said he was watching a huge tree sway in the storm, and he was worried it was going to fall onto his house.

"I was scared to death," Fleck said.

The tree did crash down. But it fell between Fleck's house and a neighbor's home, causing virtually no damage to either. "It was an act of God. We were blessed," he said.

Now Fleck is cooking food for anyone in need. He said he wants to show his gratitude for surviving Ian. He emptied his freezer of meat and is cooking it on a grill in his driveway.

"Everyone is pulling together," Fleck said.

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Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.