HURRICANE CHARLEY Ohioans head south to sort out remains of their property
Many weren't prepared for what they saw.
Many Ohioans who live in Florida part of the year are assessing how badly Hurricane Charley damaged their homes away from home.
Harry Radebaugh, 74, a retired glass worker from Toledo, lives in Eagle Point, Fla., for half of the year.
Radebaugh was among the snowbirds who were up north when the storm hit last week. Some returned to their winter homes to see what Charley did.
No home in Radebaugh's mobile park was spared. Half, like his home, were demolished.
"I expected I would have a storm door that's loose," he said.
The door was all that was left.
"It's far worse than what we were told," said Gary Heberline, who drove 22 hours from Tallmadge to Charlotte County, Fla., to get his grandfather, William, 69, now a year-round Florida resident.
Charley had peeled the top off his grandfather's trailer and soaked the inside.
Heberline lugged armloads of his grandfather's clothes and stuffed them into the minivan beside a lift chair, small appliances and family pictures. Sweat dripped from his nose.
"If there's room, I'll get his TV and the microwave in there," Heberline said.
John and Dottie Derr of Glouster, Ohio, headed south to check on their winter home in Port Charlotte, Fla. The couple found their back porch was torn up and a kitchen window blown out.
"It's a mess, but it could have been worse," said Mrs. Derr as she shifted through the wreckage on her porch. "We'll get our window fixed, our roof fixed and go back to Ohio."
Tom Polcyn, a retired LTV steelworker, puttered around his Punta Gorda, Fla., back yard where some of the tropical trees were killed.
Polcyn, 64, who had palms he grew from coconuts, said he can replace orchids and plant new trees to replace the tall ones that fell. But he said he'll never enjoy their shade.
"I won't live that long," he said.
His nieces, Tina McCormick and Linda Liuzzo, flew from Cleveland to Florida to help. McCormick, of Parma Heights, Ohio, burst into tears.
"I didn't expect it to look like this," she said.
Many of those who returned did so to file insurance claims in person. They waited outside their homes for adjusters, some of whom never showed up because they were so busy.
Some who returned were planning to stay in their Florida homes even though they didn't have electricity or running water.
Jack and Betty Jett, originally from northeast Ohio and now year-round Florida residents, said some of their neighbors cried when they saw what was left. The mobile home park where they live has 248 homes, 35 of which belong to Ohioans.
The Jetts' home was damaged, as well.
"Don't feel sorry for us," said Jack Jett, a retired bricklayer. "This is still paradise."