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Some Southwest Floridians are raising their homes to beat the next catastrophic flood

A growing number of Hurricane Ian victims are raising their homes to prevent catastrophic flood damage from another storm — that's raised, as in having the entire structures lifted up, and placed on supports.

It makes for an odd sight in some of the hardest-hit areas: large homes and their slabs, placed on pillars of huge wooden beams, or on massive concrete block supports.

You can see them around the Island Park community, west of U-S 41 in south Fort Myers. Eva Nagy's Florida dream home is one of them.

"Well we had six feet of water inside the house," Nagy said.

The water destroyed Nagy's belongings, just four months after she moved in. Now she and her husband are paying to raise the house 11 feet above its former level.

"I feel a little worried about it," she admitted. "But it'll be safer and more sturdier. And we'll have a nice view!"

A few blocks away Mike Metcalf is doing the same thing, and then some. He's having his home raised 17 feet above sea level, in hopes it'll never flood again. He said six or seven feet of water filled his home during Ian. He explained why he wants to remain in Island Park.

"We like the neighborhood, we've been here eight years," he said. "We just want to be on the water. This is where we want to be."

 Lee county said it has issued 21 permits for raised homes in the unincorporated areas. Sanibel's building director said 10 homes are being raised now, with another 40 likely to follow soon. Some homes on Fort Myers Beach also are being elevated.

Raising a home allows it to meet current government regulations on flood zones, and in some cases allows FEMA to reimburse the owner. But it does take a lot of money and time.

"Right now it's going to exceed half a million dollars," Mike Metcalf said. "And patience is a virtue. Nothing happens fast in this process."

Currently Eva Nagy and her 93-year old mother are living in a trailer in the driveway of the home. Nagy said her husband postponed his retirement plans, and is working out of state to help pay the bills. She said she hopes to climb the steps to her raised home soon.

"I'm looking probably by Christmas.  If I'm lucky," she said.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.

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.