DENVER — As the cleanup continues in southwest Florida following Hurricane Ian’s wrath, more and more survivors are sharing their stories of what they experienced and what they’ve lost.
“I lost everything. I haven't slept,” Karen Coderre said by phone Tuesday.
She hunkered down at her home in Fort Myers Beach because she was under the impression the hurricane was going to hit the northern part of the coast, like Tampa Bay.
“Every time I close my eyes, I just see the refrigerator falling over and the ceiling coming down,” she said.
Her daughter, Lauren Miller, shared with Denver7 a picture Coderre had sent her during the worst of the storm. In it, you can see her feet against a window while floating on an air mattress in what Coderre says was 12 feet of water inside her home.
“I thought I was going to die,” Coderre said.
There’s not much left of her home. Everything has water damage, and nothing is salvageable.
“I have lost absolutely everything,” she said.
Miller waited helplessly hundreds of miles away in Denver for the storm to pass, knowing there was nothing she could do.
“I lost contact with her and I didn't hear from her again for about 30 hours,” she said.
The hours in between felt like days as Hurricane Ian ravaged the coast. She thought the worst.
“I was terrified. I just kept picturing her in the house with it flooding or her being swept out of the house with the winds,” Miller said.
After the storm passed, Coderre says she grabbed whatever belongings she had and walked around for help. The rescue teams she thought were on their way never arrived.
“I think I believe it was only an act of God that I am still here,” she said. “It was worse than a nightmare. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen in my whole entire life.”
Right now, she has no other choice but to start her life over. A waterfront view is no longer in her sights.
“I'm going to need to relocate. And I don't think I ever want to look at the beach ever again,” Coderre said.
Now, Miller is on a mission to get her mother the help she needs, both physically and mentally, while they work to determine her next steps.
“She's going to be living with this trauma for the rest of her life,” she said.
If you’d like to help Coderre get back on her feet, Miller started a GoFundMe in her name which has raised more than $1,500 as of Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to individual funds like hers, Denver7 Gives is partnering with the Scripps Howard Fund for hurricane relief. You can make a donation by texting STORM to 50155 and following the prompts or by visiting Denver7.com/HurricaneRelief.