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Evacuees head home to Florida's west coast after sheltering in Okeechobee County

'This is life and death for many people,' evacuee Diane McGowan says
Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-29 16:49:08-04

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Residents on Florida's west coast who evacuated to Okeechobee County ahead of Hurricane Ian are now returning home amid an uncertain future.

"This is life and death for many people," evacuee Diane McGowan said. "We’re not caricatures in a play. This is the real deal."

She and her husband, Tim, packed up and left an Okeechobee County hotel Thursday morning where they rode out the storm.

Diane McGowan, hurricane evacuee
Diane McGowan and her husband packed up and headed home to Venice after taking shelter in Okeechobee County.

They're headed west back home to Venice to meet the unknown.

"We know there's significant damage," Diane McGowan said.

"We're hearing there is some flooding," Tim McGowan said. "We're not sure if the road is passable to get back home so we're taking a chance that we can get there, and we frankly don't know what we're going to find when we do get there."

Tim McGowan, Hurricane Ian evacuee
Tim McGowan was headed home to Venice after taking shelter in Okeechobee County during Hurricane Ian.

An optimistic Ned Brown loaded up his vehicle as well to make his trek back across the state to his home in Sarasota.

"We're not really too concerned right now because it did come so far south," Brown said. "I think we’re going to be OK, I really do. I'm praying for that."

Many Florida residents are leaning on prayers to get through the uncertainty during this difficult time.

"I pray a lot for help to get through things to keep my husband and I safe, and all these people we love," Diane McGowan said.

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