An oak tree split in two and fell on the Swisher family’s new home in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Special to The News)

An oak tree split in two and fell on the Swisher family’s new home in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge family survive hurricane Ian

The Swisher family just moved to Florida in August

A Maple Ridge family who moved to Florida in August have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving after surviving Hurricane Ian.

Jon Swisher, his wife Sarah, their three youngest children – 11, 4, and 2-years-old – and Sarah’s parents, were at the St. Petersburg house, which the Swisher’s purchased in May, when the storm hit.

Initially they were told the hurricane had changed course and were relieved the eye of the storm was not going to hit them directly. They thought they were in the clear.

However, Hurricane Ian still packed a punch with winds of more than 160 kilometres per hour that hammered the area for about 24 hours, starting at nightfall on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Then, at the height of the storm late Wednesday morning, a large oak tree in front of their house broke apart and landed on their new home, only narrowly missing Jon’s mother-in-law Pam Allen, a 40 year resident of Maple Ridge, who had just laid down to take a nap.

“It’s been a very emotional (time) for our family,” said Jon from Florida.

“It is very emotional, especially for my wife who has never experienced hurricane weather before. We are just coping at the moment,” added Jon.

He described listening to the sounds of loud wind and swirling rain during the storm, along with creaking trees.

However, he said, they did not get the worst of the storm, not like cities to the south of them did, who, he said, are experiencing much more damage and loss.

Swisher described the extensive damage to his house, impacting the master bedroom, children’s toy room/ guest room, and the covered patio.

There was no local flooding in his area, but his family has been displaced because a majority of the roof needs to be replaced and the toy room needs to be completely rebuilt.

“We have yet to hear from our insurance company, Citizens Insurance, whom I expect will be very busy in the coming weeks and months to try and get everyone the assistance they need,” said Swisher.

READ MORE: Hurricane Ian gets nasty quickly, turbocharged by warm water

Swisher is originally from Florida and lived in Maple Ridge for 10 years. The family moved to Florida because their son has some developmental concerns that can be addressed right away in Florida, although, said Jon, it is very expensive. However, he noted that the cost of living is much more affordable and he still has family there for support.

The Swishers don’t know when they will be able to return home. They stayed with Jon’s sister for a couple of days, before heading to a hotel.

“Now we are staying at my parents,” he said.

Jon is still able to work as he is a subcontractor for a roofing company and he will also be inspecting homes from storm damage.

A neighbour, who is an arborist, helped him remove some of the tree to allow them to tarp his damaged roof.

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But, he was advised that the remaining part of the tree is now off balance and it could fall in either direction – away from the house, or in it.

“For that reason we are not returning to the home until it has been removed,” said Jon, adding that could take up to three weeks.

“Luckily we have friends and extended family near by who are able to help us get through this,” he noted.

Once the tree is cleaned up Jon and his family will be returning to their new home.

He is not sure what to think about the possibility of more storms like Ian hitting them in the future as they are living at a high elevation. He said his mind will be more at ease next time with the tree now down.

What he did take away from the experience is to take things like this seriously as storms like this are very unpredictable.

“If you have the ability to evacuate and you’re in an evacuation zone do so.”

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The Swisher family. (Special to The News)

The Swisher family. (Special to The News)

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