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NORTH PORT | Family trapped by Ian flooding reflects on hurricane one year later

North Port one year later
Posted at 7:28 AM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 11:16:28-04

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Everyone has their own story after Hurricane Ian, like Samantha McCollough.

"It was terrifying," she said.

However, not everyone is going to remember the storm. During Ian, McCollough's son was not even two months old.

Vincent was born six weeks early and got out of the hospital at the beginning of September. While trying to adjust to a newborn, Ian was brewing.

"Then all of a sudden here comes this hurricane," McCollough said.

She and her husband did what they could to prepare. They rode out Ian in their North Port home.

"The wind was blowing, it was howling," McCollough said. "That’s a sound I’ll never forget, it was terrifying."

As hours went by, the power went out and she couldn't see outside. At one point, she hid in a room with Vincent.

"The hardest part was waiting overnight to see what we were going to wake up to the next morning," McCollough said.

When the sun came up, it didn't take her long to see the damage.

"Our yard was underwater, our house was an island," she said.

Trees lined her road, which left her stuck, along with neighbors on her road.

"Nobody could get back here," she said.

Neighbors, when they got a signal at the end of the road, called family members. She says they came with chainsaws, so boats could get back through.

McCollough says North Port Fire Rescue came on Friday, the day before the Myakka River reached a record-breaking flood stage at 12.8 feet.

"They really, really encouraged us to leave," she said.

McCollough packed up Vincent, her pets, and the essentials. She had a dog, cat, hamster, and a fish — all riding on the boat out of their neighborhood.

"I just felt really sad when I left the house," she said.

The next day, she came back with the help of neighbors. She says she went home after hearing reports of looting.

Though North Port Police told Fox 4 they did not receive any reports, McCollough felt uneasy.

At one point, she and her husband had to go out for supplies like gas and water.

With the roads flooded to the point where you did not know how deep it went, they could only get to a store by kayak and paddleboard.

They all got together, including Vincent, and looked for supplies.

"I never would’ve thought that we would have to wrap our infant in a life jacket just to get out of here," McCollough said.

Thankfully, they made it back safely.

As the days went on, McCollough says they could not leave with their truck for nearly 10 days because of the flooding.

"A full week from the hurricane the water started receding," she said.

As that happened, it gave her time to reflect.

"I did notice there was a greater strength in me after this hurricane," McCollough said.

Hurricane Ian is still really hard for so many to talk about, especially when you can still see the aftermath of Ian.

Some people spoke with Fox 4 off-camera, telling us it would be mentally difficult to do an interview and relieve the memories of Ian.

McCollough, brave enough to share her story, says Ian still takes a toll on her.

"When we had the threat of Idalia, I was very nervous, scared," she explained.

Though the memories can be hard to think about, McCollough says she's grateful for all the help they received.

"We come back stronger as a community," she said.

She also says she's thankful for the people who kept her grounded, even if they cannot realize it just yet.

"I’m going to tell him [Vincent] he had the ride of his life," McCollough said. "He was barely two months old and he went through a Category 4 hurricane with his mom and dad and he did great."