ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — A steady drive through Grove City, about two miles south of Englewood on the western edge of Charlotte County, reveals the months of recovery after Hurricane Ian. Roofers hammering on homes just west of Placida Road. Trees ripped out of the ground from more than four months ago.
FOX 4 Certified Meteorologist Katie Walls confirms, through National Weather Service data, that winds reached a peak gust of 110 miles per hour on September 28, 2022 as Hurricane Ian pushed through Southwest Florida.
Dozens of mobile homes with extensive damage just east of Placida Road, the main stretch through town, shows the difficult path ahead for many of the town's approximately 2,000 residents.
In Englewood, the juxtaposition of recovery is stark. Tarps and covers on roofs and siding throughout the city as people can walk the historic Dearborn Street, full of restaurants and galleries, and see the diners and the shoppers come back. On this Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, hundreds — possibly thousands — of people perched on the sand of Englewood Beach, north of Stump Pass State Park, to take in another perfect Southwest Florida sunset.
Rick Kingston is in the middle of it all. Let's just say that his store is a bit off the beaten path, even as it's on the well-traveled South McCall Road.
"First reaction, their jaw drops!" Rick exclaimed as I asked him about the reaction when people walk into The Pop Culture Antique Museum. From televisions from 1975 to the original "brick" cellphone to endless stuffed animals, action figures, model vehicles, toys, "45" records across three different storage rooms, this is true sensory overload.
"This is how we do memories," said Kingston. "We do memories!"
Kingston also comes with a strong perspective on Englewood, having lived in the city since 1988. He notes the region has changed so much.
"The rents were (about) $400," said Kingston as rentals in this part of Florida are often more than $2,000 a month. "It’s a different economy out there and the people who suffered are the people who lost everything."
We asked about some of the other devastation throughout this part of Charlotte County, from Englewood to Grove City.
"*With the older folks, the senior citizens, the mobile home parks, they’re still having problems," said Kingston. "You can bring tears to my eyes because they’re on limited budgets. They don’t have money."
Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex appeared on FOX 4 the day after Hurricane Ian hit to offer our viewers more information on just how dire the damage was in his district, which covers Englewood, Grove City, Rotunda, Placida and many other parts of the region. Truex sent FOX 4 this email on how residents can get help:
"The challenges our residents are facing is significant as these areas were hit very hard by Hurricane Ian. Frustration and some confusion does exist within the community when it comes to housing assistance. For those with questions or concerns are encouraged to reach out to my office. We will do our best to assist those in need during this trying time.”
The Commission office number is (941) 743 - 1300, with "Option 3" to reach Commissioner Truex's office directly.