EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the names of Kerrie and Holly O’Reilly. We regret the error.
SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A Fort Myers beach resident is now living in San Francisco with family after escaping Hurricane Ian. Her home was among many that were destroyed by the deadly storm last week.
Kerrie O’Reilly is a single mother with a one-year-old child. She had moved to Fort Myers beach a couple of years ago.
She says she instantly fell in love with the town and started planting roots there, but now she’s heartbroken that it was all taken away in less than 24 hours.
“It was like a magical place and it was just this beautiful community of people that supported you, loved you, worked hard, laughed with you, would bring you anything and do anything for you,” O’Reilly said.
Kerrie O’Reilly reminisces about Fort Myers Beach — a place she called heaven and home before Hurricane Ian ripped it all apart.
“We’re grateful to be alive, yeah,” O’Reilly said. “When you look at the images our house is completely gone. It’s just wet lumber. There’s nothing remaining. All of her stuff: cribs, strollers, the whole house. I mean you name it, it’s gone.”
With no home to return to like thousands of others on Fort Myers Beach, Kerrie and her daughter Summerwind are now staying with Kerrie’s sister, Holly, who lives in San Francisco.
Holly was also in southwest Florida when the hurricane hit — making a surprise visit to Fort Myers Beach for Summerwind’s first birthday just days prior.
They say they originally planned to ride out the hurricane but are glad they made the last-minute decision to evacuate the beach.
It’s a question many residents are now asking themselves. Kerrie says their family was grandfathered into the area and the home didn’t have insurance.
Holly launched a GoFundMe page to assist with living expenses as Kerrie searches for a new place to call home with her baby.
“Every morning, I would step on that beach with my dog and my child, and I would just look and see palm trees, the gulf, the sand and be like this is never going to get old,” Kerrie said. “Like how did I get so lucky? And I guess now that sort of little voice within is like when will I get that lucky again?”
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Many of my friends and former coworkers are still there. Despite what’s happened, they say they’ve seen some of the best in people as the community has come together to rebuild.