Floridians escape Ian at casino on edge of Everglades. They found refuge – and slot machines.

Written by on September 30, 2022

MICCOSUKEE RESERVATION, Florida – Some handed the time taking part in blinking slot machines, swimming within the pool and consuming at a 24-hour restaurant. Others who fled Hurricane Ian in trailers and motorhomes arrange camp within the parking zone of the tribal on line casino on the sting of the Everglades.  

“Crucial factor is we’re secure,” mentioned Ping Hu, 46, whose dwelling in Sanibel Island was reduce off by the hurricane that had left two fellow residents lifeless.

The Miccosukee On line casino & Resort was simply one of many numerous accommodations, buddies’ properties and shelters throughout South Florida the place evacuated residents, households and retirees briefly holed up this week. 

Thursday night time, one group sat on folding chairs and sipped beers to look at the solar dip under the grassy expanse stretching again towards the hurricane-ravaged west coast. They commiserated collectively, questioning if their properties have been ruined. They learn information studies, texted buddies for electrical energy updates and debated when to return.

Largely, they have been simply glad to have discovered this unlikely, however welcoming, refuge.

Hurricane evacuees gather outside the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino west of Miami, Florida.

“That is the primary hurricane I’ve been via. They advised us, ‘We’ve no energy. Don’t come again,’” mentioned Greg Deem, 70, who lives in an upscale motorhome resort in Naples and likewise has a house in Ohio. “I am very glad I’m right here, in a parking zone at a on line casino.”

By Friday, some have been trying out to return to asses the harm in coastal cities and residences additional inland that had been flooded by torrential rains. Others have been nonetheless not sure if it was secure and extending their keep, mentioned resort supervisor Karen Whiting.

“Persons are anxious. They do not know what they’ll discover once they return,” mentioned Whiting, who mentioned the 302-room lodge was almost full.

Lori Kearn, 69, and her husband, Raymond, 75, mentioned they believed their dwelling had survived close to Arcadia, about 25 miles northwest of Port Charlotte. 

“There’s no energy, there’s no water. Some trailers have been tipped over,” Lori Kearn mentioned.

Within the elevators, some displaced residents hauled baggage of groceries to their rooms. 

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Marco Island resident Kathleen Tuttle, 72, mentioned this week marked the primary time she evacuated forward of a hurricane since her husband handed away. Beforehand, that they had weathered such storms collectively at dwelling.

“I really feel very blessed having discovered this refuge,” she mentioned.

Those that had evacuated knew there was work forward: Cleansing out apartment fridges, checking on automobiles left behind, and navigating cleanup and insurance coverage.

Hu, an accountant who purchased a house earlier this yr on Sanibel Island along with her husband and two daughters, mentioned she thought-about ready out the hurricane earlier than heeding requires evacuation on Tuesday. 

Together with her husband out of city on enterprise, she packed a small bag — figuring she’d be again after an evening or two. Resort rooms have been scarce, so she secured one on the on line casino resort, positioned on what Whiting mentioned was a parcel of the Miccosukee Indian Reservation.

Sanibel Island resident Ping Hu, 46, with her children at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming hotel.

Her kids, ages four and seven, cherished it. There was a pool, brilliant colours and lights. It felt like a cruise, she mentioned. Amid shows in regards to the Miccosukee’s historical past, they met different hurricane evacuees. For some, it was merely the primary place they noticed after crossing Freeway 41 via the everglades.

On Thursday, an indication posted on the entrance desk mentioned the resort was suspending its insurance policies to permit kids on the lodge due to the catastrophe.

“Mommy, we’re going to remain right here ceaselessly, proper?” considered one of her daughters requested. 

She had no simple reply.

Sanibel’s washed-out bridge meant no entry to the island, their dwelling, the varsity that her daughter attends and their belongings. She thinks her dwelling survived however wasn’t sure in regards to the harm. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mentioned repairing the street to Sanibel would take time.

Hurricane Ian evacuees with trailers and motorhomes set up camp in the parking lot of the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino in Florida.

Sanibel Island officers mentioned Thursday that 200 households remained on the island throughout the storm and that not less than two individuals had died following the storm. A minimum of 40 have been evacuated, they mentioned, with some taken to hospitals. 

“It’s simply actually scary,” Hu mentioned, who was weighing whether or not to decamp to a household property in St. Louis. 

Subsequent to their trailer within the parking zone, a generator hummed on Thursday night time close by as the Kearns sat exterior with Deem — who they mentioned had first sauntered over after arriving and requested, “Is that this hurricane blissful hour?” They grew to become quick buddies.

Deem joked that, since arriving Tuesday, he “donated” to the on line casino slot machines. Raymond Kearn celebrated that he had damaged even.

Perhaps, given the circumstances, that was the perfect for which anybody may hope.  

Chris Kenning is a nationwide information author. Attain him at ckenning@usatoday.com and on Twitter @chris_kenning.

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