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‘The noise was deafening’: Snowbirds, Canadian travellers describe what Hurricane Ian was

As Hurricane Ian rips through Florida, the immense destruction is also being felt by Canadian property owners.

Florida is a second home to hundreds of thousands of snowbirds who were preparing to fly south for the winter, such as Alison Collins and her husband Greg, who bought a second home in Fort Myers last April.

“We just found out about an hour ago that some of the flashing across the side of our house was blown off,” she told CTV National News. “Being about 90 degrees (32 C), it becomes increasingly concerning every day that we don’t have power due to the risk of mould.”

Windsor, Ont. resident Joe Di Ponio, who also owns a second home in Bonite Spring, Fla., says it’s been a struggle to reach his friends and neighbours down south as Ian tore through his community.

“I mean it’s extremely terrifying for the people who are there, for the people who decided to stay and not evacuate. They said the noise was deafening. The shaking of the buildings was scary,” he told CTV News.

For those who rode out the storm, it may be a long wait until they can book a flight home. It’s a situation Andrew Berry-Ashpole and his family find themselves in, stuck in an Orlando hotel on their first trip in more than two years.

“Everybody packed only so many clothes and so much medication on this trip. And we’re running short on all that,” he told CTV National News. “We’re just going to try to make the best of a bad situation.”

Florida is a popular destination for Canadians. Each year around 3.5 million travel to the Sunshine State, while an estimated 500,000 so-called snowbirds make the state home for a month or longer.

While most don’t head south until November, the peak season for snowbirds, the Canadian Snowbird Association is encouraging property owners to check their insurance coverage in the meantime.

“You need home insurance. You need flood insurance and you would also need windstorm or hurricane insurance as well. Not having one of those in a storm like Hurricane Ian, you’re running the risk of not being able to claim that and having to pay for any of the damages out of pocket,” Evan Rachkovsky, the association’s director of research and communications, told CTV National News.

In the meantime, the Canadian Snowbird Association is cautioning against visiting Florida before local officials say it’s safe. The Canadian government has also issued a travel advisory, urging Canadians to avoid all travel to the southeastern coast of the United States, from Flagler Beach, Fla., to Surf City, N.C.  

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