North Port residents still rebuilding as hurricane season begins

The 2023 hurricane season began June 1.
The 2023 hurricane season began June 1.(PRNewswire)
Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 4:47 PM EDT
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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WWSB) - While North Port residents are still rebuilding following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian, the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season that began June 1 has already brought a tropical storm, that has since weakened.

The City of North Port experienced devastating impacts with residents losing homes entirely or extensive damage to their roofs or interiors of their homes.

Resident Justin Willis said immediately after the storm, his non-profit, When All Else Fails, sprang into action helping others in the community.

“We set up hurricane relief distributions sights across the city,” said Willis. “We took over as the food distribution center for the World Central Kitchen and provided over 15,000 meals a day throughout the community. We were taking in anywhere between 10-20,000 pounds of goods a day that we were putting directly out into the community.”

Willis and his family lost their roof and water destroyed the rest of their home in the Cranberry neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood with over a dozen homes still waiting for new roofs.

Willis said for some residents their insurance isn’t covering all the damages like getting new dry wall. Willis’ non-profit is now helping with that, and he said it’s in hopes of getting them back to normal.

“We’re now almost 10 months out and as you go through neighborhoods, there is still as much destruction today as there was 10 months ago,” said Willis. “Yes, we’ve cleaned up the trash and we’ve cleaned up the down trees, but the inside of these homes are still destroyed and we still have families that are living 70, 80 miles away from home while they’re paying a mortgage and a rental cost.”

City of North Port Emergency Manager Michael Ryan said its more important now, with all the re-building, that residents are prepared for hurricane season.

“Several things that we’ve learned about hurricanes over the years is they don’t pay attention to skinny little black line in the middle of a cone, they don’t pay attention to the calendar, they don’t pay attention to predictions,” said Ryan. “They do what they are going to do, so with that in mind, we have to be ready for anything.”

Ryan also stressed the importance of turning on emergency notifications, something Ryan said many may have turned off during the early morning notification mix-up with the state a few weeks ago. He said they are critical during emergencies and especially hurricanes.