SOUTH FORT MEYRS
After the devastation left behind by Hurricane Ian, many in Southwest Florida were faced with the difficult decision of packing up and leaving, or staying behind to rebuild.
It was a dramatic fork in the road from a simple this-or-that choice, no matter how old you are.
When WINK News first walked into Paul and Mary Ann Riederer’s home in south Fort Myers, mud was everywhere, furniture was tossed around the living room, and their patio cage was crushed.
“We watched the wind blow, then all of the sudden the cage came down, and that was the first time that ever happened. But it was still just wind, ok? Never expected any water,” Paul said.
But water from the lake behind their home rushed in without much resistance.
Water from this lake rushed into their home. CREDIT: WINK News
“We thought at one time when it started to flood that we could make it to our friend’s house down there,” Paul said.
They stayed put and waited for the water to stop.
“My concern was what happens if it gets higher than this credenza,” Paul said.
Thankfully it didn’t, and when the flood waters receded, Paul and Mary Ann got right to work to fix everything.
They hired a company to rip everything out and toss it to the curb outside their house.
More damage inside their home. CREDIT: WINK News
“I never expected at 85 I was going to have to restart my life again,” Paul said.
Their house is a blank canvas three months after the storm. It’s filled with tools and dust, but there’s new drywall ready for personal touches to make it a home again.
Of course, Paul and Mary Ann could have gone to Pittsburgh, where Paul’s family lives, but their fortitude and resolve wouldn’t allow it.
“Well, it’s beautiful here; I mean, the view from here. The view, I guess, is what got us because you’ve got this beautiful lake and the golf course back here,” Paul explained. “But you know, I don’t want to go back to Pittsburgh. It’s cold up there.”
A beautiful view of the lake that rampaged and wrecked their home.
“I love Southwest Florida. It’s been a home now for me for 20 years,” Paul said.
But it also motivates them to rebuild and stay in Southwest Florida.
Paul estimates it’ll cost approximately $150,000 to repair their home. Luckily, it’ll help that they’re insured.
Paul and Mary Ann hope to be back in their house by February for Paul’s birthday.
Paul said his entire family from Pittsburgh will be coming to celebrate.