This Florida woman lived to share her ‘biggest mistake’

Kimberly Lenehan Payano evacuated her North Fort Myers home during Hurricane Irma five years ago under dire storm and wind warnings, then returned to a pristine home.

He decided not to leave for Hurricane Ian.

“It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life. Big, big mistake,” Payano said this week.

Many of his neighbors also stayed, some not even covering their windows. She still doesn’t know how it went. If not for a couple of men in a small boat, she and her 12-year-old son might have been among the dozens who died.

The rise in the death toll in Florida, now at 75, is confirmation that many did not evacuate.

Including five deaths in North Carolina and one in Virginia, Ian ranks among the 30 deadliest storms in the continental United States. It is also the 11th storm in the last 22 years to claim more than 50 lives on land.

Jonathan Strong wades through flood waters Sept. 29 as he knocks on the doors of a flooded mobile home community in Iona, an unincorporated community in Lee County near Fort Myers, Florida.  Strong, who is not affiliated with any volunteer groups, said he came to help because, "I can't sit back while my house is intact and let other people suffer.  It's what we do;  community helping the community."

With warmer ocean temperatures leading to increased rainfall and other climate-related changes predicted, researchers are predicting bigger and even deadlier disasters.

“The risk posed by these storms is only going to increase … because of rising sea levels and increased population density,” said Amber Silver, a disaster researcher and assistant professor at the University at Albany in New York. “As more and more people in vulnerable regions become more and more vulnerable due to global climate change and sea level rise, we will see some of these shocking events with large numbers of deaths and large losses economic”.

THERE ARE NO “EASY FIXES” IN FLORIDA:But could the ravages of Hurricane Ian call for better planning?

I WILL SEE:Inside the search for Hurricane Ian survivors

The deaths related to Ian illustrate how the impacts of a disaster are not only driven by the strength of a hurricane, said Stephen Strader, an associate professor at Villanova University. They are influenced by the vulnerability of people and the decisions they make.

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