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Fort Myers resident documents the hurricane damage

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

About 45 minutes south of Port Charlotte is Fort Myers, Fla., where Hurricane Ian hit hard. Eighteen-year-old Bobby Pratt lived in Fort Myers his entire life until he went away to college. But once his classes were canceled, he decided to go back home to ride out the storm with his parents. And he joins me now from his parents' house in Fort Myers. Hi, Bobby.

BOBBY PRATT: Hi.

SUMMERS: So I've heard that your family and friends are doing OK, but I'm hoping you can tell me. What are the conditions like at your house? Do you have things like electricity and water and Wi-Fi?

PRATT: Yes. So right now we do have electricity here, and we do have water. But we are under a boil-water notice, so we can't drink any of the running water here. And we do have gallons and bottles of water to drink.

SUMMERS: OK, that's great to hear. You were away at the University of Central Florida, which is a few hours north of Fort Myers. How did you decide to come back home?

PRATT: Well, our classes were canceled from Wednesday to Friday. And so I decided to come back home on Monday because I - you know, initially, I thought that the storm was going to hit Tampa and then move across the state and affect Orlando, so I decided to come home before that. And as the storm grew closer, it changed and it made landfall here.

SUMMERS: So when the storm was hitting your area, what were you seeing and hearing? What was that like?

PRATT: As it began to hit us, winds were ramping up. Debris started flying through the streets. We could hear roofing tiles from our roof flying off, and we could see trees outside bent over almost 90 degrees. We had - the wind was crazy. I mean, it was just - it was destroying things around me. Like, I saw a roof come off of a neighbor's house...

SUMMERS: Gosh.

PRATT: ...During the storm. Yeah. It was just crazy. And we don't have shutters or anything up on our windows, so we were just praying that none of the debris was going to hit our house and break any of our windows or damage our house severely.

SUMMERS: And how is your house doing?

PRATT: Right now the main house is good. We're indoors. Nothing has been too damaged. We have a fence in our backyard that's pretty much completely - it was destroyed by the wind. Our front porch - we had some railing and stuff that was torn off and blown away. And as I said, our roof - the tiles are coming off the roof. That's pretty much all the damage that is to our house. We're pretty good right now.

SUMMERS: Now, I understand that Fort Myers is under a curfew, but before you received that order, you were out filming for social media. What have you seen?

PRATT: Just damage. That's the only way - carnage is what I can describe it as. I was just in shock. As I was in the downtown area of Fort Myers, I saw boats in the streets. Docks had floated up on the streets. Big, concrete docks had flown into the downtown area on the streets. And as I went downtown, as I entered - I'm sorry. As I went to the beach, as I drove over the bridge, I could see that our fishing pier that had stormed - that was completely gone. I could just see that it was going to be bad - worse than I could have ever thought it was. And as I walked down the bridge - 'cause I had to park my car on the bridge; I couldn't drive it any further - I walked down. I just saw that there was nothing. It was just rubble.

SUMMERS: Growing up in Fort Myers, you must have some places that are really special to you. Were you able to check in on any of those this morning?

PRATT: Yeah. Like I said, I went to the beach, and the beach is the place that me and my friends - we definitely spent a lot of our time there. I mean, our weekends - most of all of our weekends were spent there, you know, in the water, walking around, eating. A lot of restaurants that we used to frequent are completely gone. I mean, there was a Dairy Queen that we used to stop by every time we were at the beach. That, like, is one of the buildings that is just completely gone. So, yeah, a lot of the places that me and my friends and family frequented are just gone.

SUMMERS: That's got to be really tough to see.

PRATT: Yeah.

SUMMERS: So, Bobby, what are the next steps for you and your community as you seek to recover from this storm?

PRATT: As of right now, we're clearing the streets of debris from the storm so we can safely travel and so emergency responders can get to people that need help. As for rebuilding the lost buildings and restaurants and stuff, it's going to take years. Honestly, I don't think it'll ever be the same. It's just - those places have been there a long time. The beach - my dad went to those when he was young, and his dad went to the places when he was younger. Those places have been there a long time. They really made Fort Myers what it was, and now that they're gone, I don't think it will ever be the same.

SUMMERS: That was Bobby Pratt. He's a resident of Fort Myers, Fla. Bobby, thank you, and take care of yourself and your family.

PRATT: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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