Kate Snyder was feeling stressed as she started teaching her 8 a.m. class at Bates College on Thursday morning. It had been several hours since the Lewiston resident had heard from her parents as they weathered the winds and rain of Hurricane Ian along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Kate Snyder of Lewiston, second from left, her partner Tobin Williamson and her parents, Priscilla and Chris Flanagan in Venice, Florida, in December 2021. Photo courtesy of Kate Snyder.

“I feel better now,” Snyder, a visiting associate professor of psychology at Bates, said in a phone interview Thursday after finally getting a text from her mom, who used a neighbor’s phone to let her daughter know they were OK despite the lack of cell service. “But it’s still tough to not be able to call my mom to talk to her and know how things are going down there.”

Snyder’s parents, Chris and Priscilla Flanagan, are among the millions of Floridians hit by the hurricane, which has inflicted widespread damage and power outages. The storm made landfall Wednesday in southwest Florida and forecasters were still warning of destructive flooding Thursday. Ian had been reduced to a tropical storm by Thursday morning, but it regained hurricane strength as it headed toward South Carolina Thursday night.

Snyder said her parents were prepared, but the storm was one of the biggest they’ve seen since moving to Florida about 10 years ago from Nashua, New Hampshire. Priscilla Flanagan grew up in Clinton and attended the University of Maine.

Chris Flanagan installs storm shutters on his house in Venice, Florida in preparation for Hurricane Ian. Photo courtesy of Kate Snyder.

The Flanagans now live in Venice, Florida, so the storm hit just south of them, though they were still “really hard hit,” Snyder said.

She said she called her parents around noon Wednesday and they were feeling OK, but as the storm got worse that afternoon, Snyder grew nervous. She got a text from her parents around 5 p.m. but didn’t hear from them again until 9 a.m. Thursday when her mom sent the text from a neighbor’s phone to let her know they had weathered the storm.


Snyder said they don’t have cellphone service or electricity, but she is assuming her parents’ house is fine because her mom didn’t say anything about it. “My guess is my mother is prepared with a weeklong stash of crafts and snacks,” said Snyder, 37. “She was a first-grade teacher, so she’s always incredibly prepared.”


Further down the coast, Pedro Vazquez’s three grown children and grandchildren were emerging from “a pretty harrowing experience” in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral areas. Vazquez, of South Portland, was able to stay in touch with his family through a group text, emails and an app called Life360, which provides location-sharing services.

But the services were intermittent during the peak of the storm Wednesday, and he grew worried when the video stream from the Fort Myers-based news channel he was monitoring went off the air.

“You don’t usually hear about a television station going offline like that,” said Vazquez, 53. “We were watching and they were panning to what was going on on the ground level … live on the air a couple of transformers blew and they went off the air.”

He said he spoke to his family Thursday morning, and they reported a lot of damage, describing flooding, downed power lines and neighbors’ homes that no longer had roofs. He said they aren’t expecting electricity to return for about five days and their well system was ripped out of the ground, so they’re also without water.


Vazquez said his children were planning to evacuate initially, but bridges and causeways were closed shortly after evacuation orders were given due to the wind speeds, making it impossible for people to leave.

He’s grateful his children are close and can support each other. “The fact they have that with one another is really keeping them afloat,” he said.

Vazquez’s oldest daughter is a practice manager for a network of health care providers and had to figure out how to store medications that require refrigeration.

“Everything you can think about that goes into managing a medical practice and preparing for a catastrophic event like that she was dealing with, in addition to the preparations for her family and her children,” Vazquez said.


Former Auburn police officer and restaurant owner Tom Poulin and his wife, Susan, retired and moved to Sebring, in central Florida, in 2021, purchasing a two-bedroom home in a 55-plus community.


Living through Maine’s historic ice storm of 1998 and losing power for 18 days prepared them for finding themselves in the path of hurricane Ian, Tom Poulin said. Poulin said he installed hurricane shutters on his windows, filled up the gas tank on his vehicle, and prepared several meals in advance of the storm’s arrival. During the height of the storm, they could hear the 115 mph winds thrashing the side of their house along with debris blown by winds.

Poulin was prepared to be without power for much longer, and was thrilled when it came back on Thursday night. The storm dumped more than 15 inches of rain on Sebring, causing streets in their neighborhood, as well as some homes, to flood. Storm waters rose up around their home, but did not get inside.

“At one point our house looked like a castle with a moat around it,” he said.

When the power came back on, the first thing Poulin did was take a shower.

“We fared pretty well, at least far better than many others did,” Poulin said.

Ian neared a Category 5 storm as it made came ashore Wednesday and is one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall in Florida. It flooded homes on both the state’s coasts, cut off the only road access to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses – nearly a quarter of the state’s utility customers.



The American Red Cross has deployed about 730 disaster workers on the ground to help with shelter and relief efforts. Those numbers include nine Mainers who are helping with sheltering, logistics and damage assessment, according to Jennifer Costa, regional communications director for the American Red Cross Northern New England Region.

Bob and Ann Cibelli, of Acton, are among a small group of Mainers deploying to Florida as disaster workers through the American Red Cross. They’ll be helping with sheltering, logistics and damage assessment in Tampa. Photos courtesy of the American Red Cross Northern New England Region

One couple, Bob and Ann Cibelli, of Acton, landed in Tampa before the storm made landfall and are expected to be there for two weeks to help provide meals and work with people in shelters, making sure they’re comfortable and are getting the services they need.

Costa said she heard from the Cibellis briefly and they said they were safe, but they’ve been hard to get in touch with.

“Now they’re in full-blown disaster relief mode,” Costa said.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency warned Mainers who want to help victims of Hurricane Ian to not donate goods or materials. Donations of money are better. MEMA said goods require manpower and are difficult to distribute during natural disasters.


“We recognize the desire to help those affected by Hurricane Ian. It is important to remember, donating money to vetted sources allows funds to go directly to affected areas, providing exactly what’s needed,” MEMA tweeted Thursday.

MEMA also advised against Mainers traveling by themselves to help with aid efforts in Florida. “Never self-deploy. Connect with a vetted volunteer organization to help,” MEMA said.

For a list of vetted resources and more information, MEMA recommends visiting their website.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story

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