Feeling lucky to be alive, a Fort Meyers Beach man recounted his harrowing experience riding out Hurricane Ian in his Estero Island, Florida home.
Mike Yost spoke with Fox News’ Charles Payne on Monday’s ‘Your World’, telling the fill-in host that he lost two friends who heroically saved their wives’ lives during the storm surge. He admitted that he also “made a mistake” by staying in the southwest Florida community.
Basing their decision on 2004’s Hurricane Charlie, Yost and several others decided to ride out the category four storm rather than evacuate when officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for Lee County on September 27, one day before Ian made landfall.
“I thought, ‘we’re on the second floor,'” Yost recalled. “We knew the storm surge was coming but everybody kept saying ‘Charlie never made it up this far.'”
Shortly after water was visible on his street, with foam curling around the powerful current, Yost knew Ian was going to deliver a much bigger punch than Charlie.
“When we first saw it coming in we thought, ‘this is what we expected,'” Yost said. “We watched [the water] go up the mailbox pole and thought ‘OK, here it is.’ We’re watching it come in and it went up the pole of the mailbox and my girlfriend walked away and when she came back she goes the water ‘is already over the mailbox’ and I said ‘no it swept the mailbox away.'”
Watching the current destroy a 4-foot by 4-foot steel USPS multi-home mailbox structure, Yost was nervous.
“Water just kept going up and up and up,” he said. “I mean fast. It went from 2 feet to 10 feet in a matter of maybe 10 minutes. It was just incredible and I was like ‘this is not good, this is not good.'”
Yost then posted on Facebook, “I know, I made a mistake.”
Weighing their options, Yost and his girlfriend used an air mattress to survive the surge.
“The water got up to the deck there, what is that about 14 feet or so,” Yost said, pointing at the apartment unit that was one of the thousands destroyed by Ian in Florida. “It was really scary. We were looking around, and basically, I said we are going to have to hold on and get on our air mattress and hope the water doesn’t make it to our ceiling.”
Brought to tears by the loss of his “two best friends on the beach,” Yost recounted the bravery of Mitch Pecina and Damon Utterback.
“They both saved their wives. And I know Damon probably – from what I hear – went back in for his little dog and that was the end of him,” Yost said, fighting tears. “Their wives made it and their little dogs even made it.”
Pecina’s wife spent four hours clinging to a second-floor railing before being rescued, Yost said.
“Seven feet from her, her neighbor was holding on to a tree for about five hours, in the storm surge, in the wind,” Yost said. “He said a branch snapped and hit him, almost knocked him off but he had the will to pull himself back in. And these are people in their 70s that are doing this and they held on for dear life.”
Ian’s death toll stands at 100 as of Monday but is expected to rise as rescuers revisit hard-hit areas.
Emergency crews have made cursory inspections of about 45,000 properties, Reuters reported.
“We’ve been to about every address,” Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s emergency management, reported Monday, noting that crews had begun conducting a more thorough search. “We believe that we have searched everything very quickly. Now we are going back for a second look. I am not saying we are not going to find anybody else. We may find other people.”
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