Former area residents prepare for the worst in Florida

By William K. Alcorn

Mike Braun, former reporter and page designer for The Vindicator, now a reporter with The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., has boarded up his home in Estero, Fla., which was under mandatory evacuation. He’s living at the newspaper covering Hurricane Irma until at least Monday morning.

When interviewed Saturday night, Braun was heading south on Interstate 75 to his home to get additional supplies for the unprecedented storm to come. He was driving in a light rain.

On Friday in Sarasota, Fla., it was warm and windy. There was a beautiful sunset, said Andrea Baltes, formerly of Newton Falls, who is executive director of a facility for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Baltes, former executive director of a facility in Austintown, and part of her staff have to stay with the patients. She is also hunkered down in the facility with her husband, Art, and his daughter and her son, two dogs and a cat. The Baltes’ home in North Port, Fla., in Sarasota County is boarded up.

Baltes said the facility has a generator for power, they have stocked up on food and water and the families of patients and staff have been invited to wait out the storm in the facility.

She admitted she is nervous but is trying to stay calm and positive and do business as usual. They have tried to keep the storm news away from patients, but she said a fellow today got wind of the storm and packed his clothes.

“At the same time, I am worrying about my family. I have all the concerns that any mother would have, and I know my family up north is freaking out,” she said.

While this is Baltes’ first hurricane, she was a teenager in Newton Falls when the tornado hit that city in 1985 and understands what monster storms can do.

“I hope the devastation is not too severe,” she said.

Like everybody else in the path of Hurricane Irma, former Youngstown policeman Dan Mikus of Parrish, Fla., wonders how serious the devastation will be.

He said the eye of the storm is predicted to go right over his home. “I guess I’ll just have to hold my margarita a little tighter,” he said with a laugh.

Sitting out in his front driveway Saturday night when he was interviewed by phone, he said the wind was starting to pick up.

Originally, Mikus, a security guard at Manatee Memorial Hospital, was scheduled to stay at the hospital and help today. But Saturday he learned that he is now scheduled to go back to work Monday night after the storm passes because it had gotten too dangerous to rotate shifts. “I’ll be there, God willing,” he said.

Mikus plans to ride out the storm in a large walk-in closet in his home with his 80-pound golden retriever/Labrador mix.

Also, he said he believes he is far enough inland and high enough to avoid the surge; but he is concerned about the tornadoes. “I hope we don’t get hit.”

“I’m very impressed with the preparedness of everybody. People are in shelters. The whole neighborhood is battened down and ready to go,” said Mikus, who has relatives in Struthers, Coitsville and Warren.

“This is the calm before the storm. Sunday night will be the rough time,” he predicted.

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