Sep 25, 2022 – Hurricane Ian

From Sep 25 to 28, we camped near Columbus, Ohio as Hurricane Ian made its way to Florida.
A southward view of our home base at Outdoor Resorts on Chokoloskee Island, one of the Ten Thousand Islands in the Gulf of Mexico.

On September 10th, 2017, Category 3 Hurricane Irma with winds speeds of 115 mph hit landfall approximately 26 miles northwest of Chokoloskee Island, where our fifth wheel was parked at Outdoor Resorts (ORA). A few days later, we were taking pictures of our devastated rig that had experienced an 8-ft storm surge. It, along with every rig parked at ORA was totaled. On that day, Vivian and I revised our impending fulltime RV lifestyle with the decision to never leave our rig, be it a fifth wheel or otherwise on Chokoloskee Island during hurricane season. And if we have the misfortune of being in a location under hurricane watch, we would promptly leave.

Shortly after Irma, we bought our current fifth wheel, a Grand Design Reflection 303rls and have lived fulltime in it since June 2018. Because we travel with our home, we have mostly stayed a safe distance from hurricanes and tropical storms. This year, much of hurricane season was spent in the northern parts of the Midwest where our weather consciousness and vocabulary expanded thanks to polar vortexes and derechos. As we headed into the fall season, we bid Michigan adieu and moved on to Indiana for our yearly service to the RV suspension and to have a new pin box installed. After that, we were off to one of our favorites, White River Campground near Indianapolis to visit family. The nuts and bolts of traveling, RV maintenance and upgrade, and family – all these were in the foreground. But one faraway thing kept tugging at us – a storm brewing in the tropics and heading toward Florida’s Gulf Coast.

After our suspension service, we drove about 12 miles to Elkhart to spend the night at MORryde International so we were ready by 7 am to have a new pin box installed.
The MORryde pin box installed and ready to be challenged on Indiana roads! It did quite well dampening the back and forth ‘chucking’ that is all too common when pulling a fifth wheel on many highways.
After two nights of road noise while parked in concrete parking lots, we drove a 150 miles to White River Campground. There, we found respite in miles of hiking trails through fields of wildflowers.
We also visited family in Indianapolis. From the steps of Indiana’s State Capitol building, a portion of the 284-ft tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the Monument Circle can be seen in downtown Indianapolis.

On September 25, 2022, we pulled out of White River Campground and drove to Columbus, Ohio, near which we parked at a KOA for three nights before heading further east to Erie, PA. The Ohio weather had turned cold and harsh with looming dark clouds, bitter winds and rain. For the past six days, we had fixated on a tropical wave east of the Caribbean that had strengthened into a tropical depression the day before we left White River.

In between gusts of rain storms, we took walks around the very large campground and enjoyed the much needed down time. Unfortunately, that gave us more time to dwell on Hurricane Ian which is excruciating!
The desolation of a midwestern campground in the middle of the week and well after the Labor Day holiday.
Even at a rural KOA campground, Vivian and I could hike in the woods, one of our favorite things to do while traveling around the Midwest. I’ve also been enjoying the iphone’s ability to capture the intimate scenes of the forest.
Although the cold north winds were a comforting diversion, we could not help but think of destruction happening in the Caribbean and was about to happen in Florida, including Chokoloskee Island.

On September 28th, the day we left the Columbus KOA, Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast with sustained winds of 150 mph. Facebook pages were buzzing, and one we kept close watch on was the ORA at Chokoloskee page. On the low side of a gulf island, ORA floods easily – an inevitable event about to happen. Until power was lost, owners gathered as much information as possible, the most reliable coming from the park cameras and a few people that stayed there and gave reports.

We kept an eye on our empty RV lot frequently before the power went out as Hurricane Ian hit landfall. The lot, as well as the entire ORA park encountered a 4-5 ft storm surge. Our camera survived though!

Watching what was going on in Florida while driving through Ohio felt surreal. The estimated storm surge level on the morning of Sep 28 was in the 12-18 ft range near the Fort Myers area, and 8-12 feet south of there to Chokoloskee Island. We knew the island would be greatly affected but it would fare much better than neighbors to the north. The highest observed water levels on record in Naples and Fort Myers occurred that day.

A few days after Ian’s landfall and record-making destruction, an ORA neighbor posted this photo taken during the storm. You won’t catch me getting into those waters, but what a great photo opp.

Ironically and quite fortunately, we were going to Erie to visit friends who also own an RV lot at ORA. The plan was to stay at Camp Eriez on Lake Erie where our friends live parttime in the summer. It is essentially a fish camp and while our visit was to give Vivian an opportunity to fish, the weather turned sour, leaving us way too much time to cogitate on Hurricane Ian. Mine and Vivian’s home on wheels was safe. On the other hand, our friends’ fifth wheel and boat were on the island and therefore, had additional damage to deal with. Calls to insurance agents, spotty communication with the park manager and getting updated posts on the Facebook page helped the four of us navigate through the post-hurricane confusion from a distance.

Our hosts and friends, Marilyn & Jeff were also dealing with Hurricane Ian damage to their fifth wheel and RV lot.
Our Home on Wheels safely parked at Camp Eriez near Erie, PA.
A view from Camp Eriez overlooking Lake Erie, the fourth Great Lake on our 2022 travel itinerary.

The damage was done, and at that point, there was little we could do because we had a few more weeks on the road before heading back to Chokoloskee. No point in getting there any time sooner, so we may as well enjoy the remains of our travels and take advantage of the cooler temperatures.

Our friends showed us the area where they have spent most of their lives. This is from Presque Island State Park on Lake Erie where houseboats reflect on Horseshoe Pond.
We also visited McConnell’s Mill State Park, a grist mill that used turbines instead of a waterwheel.

The real reason we came to Erie, PA. Vivian and Jeff managed to squeeze in one day of fishing.

After Pennsylvania, we drove south to Summersville, West Virginia near the New River Gorge National Park, our home for one week.
A lighthouse in a landlocked park? Well, not really a lighthouse, it’s a converted wind turbine tower that was erected as a joke back in 2009. Now, the campground is called Summersville Lake Retreat & Lighthouse.
Unbeknownst to us until we watched the local news one evening and saw our RV, a webcam in the lighthouse broadcasts live each evening during the news.

Our visit to West Virginia that included mostly the New River Gorge National Park and a few other locations can be summed up well with the following slideshow.

Following West Virginia, we at last arrived in Florida, with temperatures remaining cool. Here are a few images from our Florida leg that included two beautiful campgrounds.

Despite the clean up and dealing with a broken shed door and a shed full of water logged stuff that mostly had to be thrown away, things began to look up nicely on Chokoloskee Island. With that, we settle in for the winter in our tropical paradise – until next hurricane season.

Shed contents separated for disposal or cleaning. Four days later, the sun sets over Chokoloskee Island, the boats are ready to use and things are getting back to normal.
Sunrise over Chokoloskee Bay as seen from the marina.
As they say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”. I write this blog on Nov 10, 2022 while Hurricane Nicole made landfall on the east coast of Florida. Hurricane season ‘officially’ ends 20 days from now.

One last note, if you enjoyed this blog and photos, check out this one I wrote about another hurricane that tried to spoil our travels in Arkansas, titled “Running from Laura“.

2 thoughts on “Sep 25, 2022 – Hurricane Ian

  1. “Never leave our rig, be it a fifth wheel or otherwise on Chokoloskee Island during hurricane season. And if we have the misfortune of being in a location under hurricane watch, we would promptly leave.” Very good advice and one advantage to having your house on wheels! Where did you store your kayaks during Ian? We are very thankful that more damage wasn’t done to your site or your community. By the way, how were the biscuits at Tudors? That’s a nice looking trout that Vivian caught (although I swear it looks like the same fish in both pictures!!). Did you fry it up for dinner?

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    1. Two canoes & a kayak safely made it through the storm on a secured trailer that didn’t seem to budge an inch. West Virginia can keep its biscuits, actually not so much the biscuits but the velveeta cheese they use on them. As for “it looks like the same fish in both pictures”, Vivian says “thems fightin’ words”! Same species though! No, catch & release, Vivian’s fish was a very pregnant female that needed to go back in the water. But our friends had some walleye they fried up for us!

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