Man from our hometowns is in Florida helping Hurricane Ian victims

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 5:25 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Homes across Florida remain inundated with floodwater and nearly 2 million homes and businesses are still without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Emergency management officials say the death toll now stands at one confirmed death and 20 unconfirmed deaths. The road to recovery for Florida after Ian will be a long one.

“You know you have boats that are a mile inland and if you had a house on the beach it’s gone,” said Michael Buscemi. “And then the older structures and typically the mobile homes that do not have hurricane straps are always the victim.”

Buscemi has worked with the American Red Cross in Lynchburg for 10 years. He arrived in Wesley Chapel Florida Saturday to provide support at a shelter.

“If you’ve never been in a hurricane, when you’re inside of a building it sounds like a freight train is on the outside and the building starts shaking,” explained Buscemi.

Buscemi is currently stationed at a recovery shelter in Tampa where 30 families who lost their homes are staying. Families from as far as southwest Florida are in the shelter.

The work is about more than providing a roof over victims’ heads; volunteers like Buscemi also give emotional support.

“It’s a pretty catastrophic thing to realize you lost your home and everything that’s in it,” added Buscemi. “I mean it’s not coming back, there’s nothing to pick up. That storm surge came and just washed it all away.”

All deploys are working 12 to 15 hours a day. Every now and then they walk outside to catch their breath but then head right back in.

“Whenever I go home, I’m going back and my apartment is there, my house is there, my stuff is there,” said Buscemi. “Like I said once again, these people have lost everything. It’s all gone. What they have in the shelter is their possession and that’s it.”

Despite rumors, Buscemi says no one leaves a shelter until they are positive they have a place to stay.

“And we can’t replace the stuff, but we can help get on the road of recovery,” said Buscemi.

American Red Cross has declared this a 7 on a scale of 1-7 in disaster relief.

They say they need all the donations they can get. If you would like to donate, click here.