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Hurricane Ian completely wrecked the Hideaway Village resort in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
NBC News obtained via Google Maps

As geysers shot up through the crumbling flooring and the deadbolts keeping their doors locked cracked like toothpicks under Hurricane Ian’s assault, the eight occupants stranded in the Hideaway Village motel realized they might not survive.

The turquoise motel careered west for more than a third of a mile after being torn from its foundation by winds of 150 mph.

The general manager of the Fort Myers Beach motel, Michelle Radabaugh, kept her two adult daughters on speakerphone in one room because she was too terrified to say goodbye, even as she observed a sizable structure across the street rising off the ground and barreling toward her.

Radabaugh sighed and added, “I just didn’t see any other way I could survive.”

As storm surge waves pushed them upstairs in a nearby room, Chanel Maston and three of her family members and friends tied themselves together with a sheet and slept on a mattress.

As the wave began to pin them against the ceiling, they shouted and one of them, Maston’s cousin and a mother of four, died. An employee of the motel next door retrieved the women from the water when the building crashed and the roof above them collapsed.

The worker used a broken ceiling panel that he had identified for repairs weeks earlier but had never had fixed to carry the three living women, his wife, and his 10-year-old kid up to the rafters.

There, they waited for 14 hours.

According to an NBC News count, the destruction of the Hideaway Village motel shows how the number of deaths from the storm might have easily been considerably higher than 135 people.

The stories of survival and loss underline the devastation the hurricane wreaked on Fort Myers Beach and the significant cost for those who survived, with thousands now being uprooted and jobless.

WE WERE CAPTURED,

After missing their initial flight out of Dayton, Ohio, Chanel Maston and her loved ones nearly skipped Fort Myers Beach. However, Maston claimed that on September 27, the women came at the Hideaway Village motel energized and under the notion that the storm’s dangers had been exaggerated.

Maston promised that they will make the most of their planned celebration of her cousin Nishelle Harris-Miles’ 40th birthday.
After eating at a neighboring tiki bar, the group returned to their second-floor hotel for a swimsuit photo session.
Maston, 48, stated, “We were acting stupid and having fun.

Later on that evening, a motel employee and his wife and son, who was 10 years old, arrived. He made a last-minute decision to move his family from their neighboring one-story home, thinking they would be safer in the motel, which was on higher ground, out of fear the forecast would be worse than he imagined.

The resident of the motel, Radabaugh, claimed she didn’t want to be there. She had prepared her Jeep for an evacuation with her two dogs and cat, but she was unable to turn away the motel’s newest overnight guests.

The general manager stated, “I just couldn’t go.”

On September 28, as the Category 4 hurricane made landfall nearby in Cayo Costa, the eight people holed up in their three different rooms, side by side on the second floor, at the Hideaway Village motel.

We were in a bind, Radabaugh declared.
She was first in line for the storm.

The 49-year-old Radabaugh jumped up on the bed with her cats as the corner room’s walls started to collapse. She turned on location services on her phone and placed it in a sealed plastic bag so she might be found. She never hung up when she spoke to her daughters.

She said, “I was terrified to hang up the phone.” I’m very sorry about it, but I have no idea what they heard.

They witnessed the instant the building across the street struck the motel directly, creating a large gash across its side and causing pieces of the wall to fall on Radabaugh and her dogs. The call eventually ended.

Radabaugh claimed, “It sucked us way out into the ocean.” One of her pets was ripped from her arms by a wave. She observed the submersion of his little face.

Before the daughters heard from her again, it would be another 17 hours.
The four vacationing women quickly became increasingly frightened as the stormwaters started to increase outside their window. Maston dialed 911, but no one was available.
She said, “All hell broke loose.”
They committed themselves to a mattress and drifted upward as the floods surged in forcefully.

The motel employee and his family did the same next door. The family’s cat, Daniel, jumped out of his carrier and through a damaged board exactly over their sofa bed, but in a life-altering moment.

The worker, who desired to remain unnamed out of respect for privacy, had noted on a yellow sticky note weeks earlier that Room 33’s ceiling hole required repair. The note was left on the front desk, where it has been neglected up until this point.

As he hurriedly assisted his wife and son through the damaged panel, Radabaugh floated away as he went into the rafters himself. Then he heard the women yelling for aid in the house next door.

They were jammed against the ceiling because they lacked the hole, he claimed.
He discovered a nail had punctured Nishelle Harris-Miles’ neck as the ceiling collapsed. Without her, he persuaded the women to climb up into the rafters.
She didn’t answer me. He stated, “She wasn’t moving. I merely remarked, “She’s gone. We must proceed.”

The group made their home among the rafters and prepared for a long night. The worker claimed that he tried to pass the time by conversing. However, according to Maston, there was mainly silence since the women were preoccupied with Harris-Miles.

Maston added, “We were just grieving about her and worrying about her.”
The moist wood would occasionally moan and shatter, forcing the six occupants to move to a different location.
The worker added, “You never knew what part was going to break off.”
They could hear the screams of those trapped nearby all through the night.

One of them was Sheri Fischer, 56, who was trapped in her attic with her husband Thomas and had no tools to help them escape save for a flashlight and a little hammer.

Fischer didn’t have much faith in herself. The transplant from Wisconsin who recently made the move to Fort Myers Beach sent her family a text message of farewell. But Thomas’ gesture of defeat sparked something within of him.

Fischer stated, “It crushed my husband’s heart.” He managed to breach its roof.

The couple hurried to those stranded in the motel, which had become stuck right outside her house, at around 3 in the morning. We heard their cries for assistance, Fischer claimed. We repeatedly shouted that we knew they were there.

Fischer could now see the real scope of the hurricane’s damage, even in the shadows. It was a raging river. Homes were stacked on top of one another. Everywhere, boats were thrown.

She remarked, “It’s like being in a battle zone.”
For the sake of the people trapped within, the Fischers threw off portions of the motel roof and fashioned a route out of debris.
She remarked, “It must have been scary.” “They had to spend the entire night in there.”

Fischer continued to respond to the pleas for assistance by checking on surrounding neighbors. Through his kitchen window, she discovered her neighbor to the right of her dead.

Someone had written a letter on a piece of cardboard and placed it on a car outside his house to notify the authorities that one person had passed away.

The motel employee stated, “We had a sign that said one dead.” We made the change to two.

SURVEYING THE WRECKAGE AND COMING TO TERMS WITH THE AFTERMATHSSlabs of turquoise concrete still stand where the Hideaway Village motel, a popular lodging choice for visitors and locals for approximately 60 years, once existed.

Numerous tiki bars, motels, and other businesses on Fort Myers Beach were destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

According to Victor Claar, an economist at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Lutgert College of Business, that has dealt a crippling blow to southwest Florida’s economy, which depends on tourists and part-time residents who typically arrive in late fall and remain through winter — an influx known locally as “season.”

The current season “is going to be really challenging, since even if snowbirds want to return, it’s going to be hard to locate a place to stay unless they own existing homes,” according to Claar.

In addition to making things more challenging, Ian’s destruction has increased economic strains on the local workforce, particularly on middle-class workers in the service sector.

According to officials, about 29,000 people are employed by hotels and eateries in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers Beach, where 60 people perished in the storm.

These workers had trouble locating cheap homes prior to the hurricane due to a real estate boom. The hurricane destroyed a large number of affordable housing alternatives. According to Claar, this may necessitate relocating employees to other regions of the nation.

“Some were already on the fringes. That pressure will only increase as a result of this, claimed Claar.

Among those without a place to live or a job is Radabaugh. She spent more than six hours in the sea and had to cling to a balcony, but she managed to survive the storm with shattered ribs, blood, and bruises.

She remarked, “I felt like the last person on Earth.”

Except for the sneakers she was wearing and her 6-month-old goldendoodle, Bubbles, who she spotted standing on a pile of debris with her tail wagging moments before a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft flew down to rescue them, everything she had had been swept away.

Radabaugh, who is residing with one of her daughters in Wichita Falls, Texas, declared that “all I owned, gone.”

Two weeks after the storm, Radabaugh’s ribs and wounds have healed, but the water she inhaled during the storm has left her with a lingering cough.

I’m fine physically, I think. I’m not, both mentally and financially, she said.

The other motel worker claimed that for help, he had turned to his friends and family. However, he is thankful that his son is not only strong but also still around to celebrate his 11th birthday.

Harris-Miles’ funeral is scheduled for Saturday, so Maston’s family is getting ready to say their final goodbyes to him back home in Dayton.

Harris-Miles, who was known as Nene and was adored for being the life of the party, worked as a home health aide and was a mother to two boys and two girls.

Everyone who knew Nene was aware of her love of fun, according to Maston. She enjoyed cooking. She enjoyed decorating. She designed necklaces. She adored her children.

Maston continued, “We were together all the time.”
NBC News Digital reporter Melissa Chan specializes in covering gun violence.

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