Robert Reynolds woke up in his second-story apartment in Kissimmee at around 5 a.m. Thursday morning, looked over the walkway railing outside his unit, and saw about five feet of water surging into the units one story below him.
“It all got wiped out down there,” said Reynolds, 60.
The flood trapped Reynolds and other residents, including elderly folks and children, on the top floor of a two-story building at the Park On Central apartment complex.
Later that morning, authorities were able to rescue more than 30 people from the second story — by piloting a motorboat to the building’s outdoor staircase, according to Angel Acevedo, the maintenance supervisor.
Residents of the first-floor units had already escaped before the flooding caused by Ian, the hurricane that ravaged Fort Myers and surrounding communities, got too bad. But their apartments and many of their cars were destroyed.
“They lost everything,” Acevedo said.
Acevedo said several residents told him they saw an alligator swimming in the floodwaters, although he was skeptical and no one was able to share a photograph with him.
While most residents gratefully escaped, Reynolds and at least three other neighbors declined to get on the rescue boat.
“I don’t wanna go to no shelter,” he said Thursday afternoon, shouting down from the second story to a reporter standing across a small lake of floodwater.
The Park on Central is a complex of several two-story apartment buildings with 28 units each — 14 on each floor — not far from Kissimmee’s Gateway Airport.
Even though Reynolds and his neighbors don’t have power, he plans to tough it out until he can find another place to go — maybe a hotel provided by the building management, he said.
Patricia Johnson — who was accompanied by her Shih Tzu, Sugar, on the second-story walkway — agreed.
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” Johnson said. “We need the Red Cross.”