News - McHenry County

Hurricane Ian leaves McHenry County residents facing damaged vacation homes, stranded parents

In this photo provided by the Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office, firefighters in Orange County, Fla., help people stranded by Hurricane Ian early Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Hurricane Ian marched across central Florida on Thursday as a tropical storm after battering the state’s southwest coast, dropping heavy rains that caused flooding and led to inland rescues and evacuations.

Water up to the roof, strips of businesses destroyed and refrigerators floating by.

That is some of what McHenry County residents have heard from loved ones in south Florida after Hurricane Ian, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S., made landfall on Wednesday.

For Jim and Deb Roti of Huntley, their second home in Fort Myers was in the direct path of the storm.

“We were told by people we know we have 3 to 4 feet of water,” Deb Roti said Thursday. “Everything … is floating.”

The storm flooded homes on both Florida’s coasts, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses, nearly a quarter of utility customers, The Associated Press reported. At least four were confirmed dead.

Contact with those in the affected area has been minimal, the Rotis said, and they are still waiting for photos to get a good grasp of the damage.

The contact they’ve had has been centered around making sure those they know are safe. So far, so good, they said.

“One friend we have called his wife to tell her goodbye because he didn’t think he would make it,” Deb said. “But he pulled through.”

Linda Schmidt and Nancy Tidwell of McHenry are self-described snowbirds and go down to Florida around the beginning of November every year.

They have a house in the northern part of the state, but some of their friends living farther south have been affected. One friend had water up to the roof, they said.

“We are in contact with everybody,” Schmidt said. “So far, they’re all okay.”

Former Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District Chief Steve Guetschow moved 13 years ago to the Venice area, north of where the worst damage hit the state. Up until January, Guetschow also worked with the Red Cross in Florida, doing disaster relief. The humanitarian aid organization is providing shelter to those affected now, he said.

“For us, we came out OK,” Guetschow said. A friend who was with him, however, lost his home from the flooding.

Tim and Linda Nichols of Hebron have a friend in Naples, Florida, who is originally from Rochelle. She recently opened a salon, but it’s been flooded.

Linda DiJoseph of Wonder Lake was in contact with her parents in Port Charlotte, Florida, throughout the storm. Then, on Wednesday night, they lost contact for several hours.

“Everything seemed to be going OK. They were sheltering in place, then [we] lost contact in the later part of the evening. They lost cell service,” DiJoseph said of her parents, Jim and Gloria Donahue.

The Donahues, long-time Wonder Lake residents, moved to Florida about five years ago, DiJoseph said. The condo they bought was rated safe for up to a Category 5 hurricane.

Linda DiJoseph, of Wonder Lake, left, with her parents, Jim and Gloria Donahue, during a visit over the Christmas season. The Donahues are stuck in their second-floor condo with no way to get out following Hurricane Ian.

Shortly after the pair first moved moved to Florida, they evacuated to Illinois because of hurricane warnings, DiJoseph said. But in that storm, the hurricane missed their Florida home and nothing happened.

Now, the couple, two of their friends and another neighbor are stuck in their second-floor condo with no way to get out. A roof on the walkway outside of their unit collapsed, the stairs are covered in debris, and the elevator they relied on to get to the first floor has no power, DiJoseph said. Even if they could get out, their car is under a collapsed car port.

The Donahues waited out the storm in their bathroom, but a leak in the ceiling caused some flooding to the unit’s bedroom, DiJoseph said.

“They are stuck in their flooded condo until somebody comes to evacuate them,” DiJoseph said.

Despite having no electricity to recharge their cell phones or provide her father with needed oxygen, “they are in very good spirits,” DiJoseph said.

Neither she nor her brother have chosen to make the drive down to Florida to get their parents out themselves, but she is worried about the lack of power and air conditioning lasting for several days.

”If I have to, I will go down there,” DiJoseph said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.