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A vacationer who sheltered in place during Hurricane Ian watched in terror from the 2nd floor as water filled the home where she was staying

INSIDER 9/30/2022 kleonard@insider.com (Kimberly Leonard)
The destruction Hurricane Ian left in Fort Meyers Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Rachel Jeter © Courtesy of Rachel Jeter The destruction Hurricane Ian left in Fort Meyers Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Rachel Jeter
  • Hurricane Ian tore through Florida as a Category 4 storm on Thursday.
  • Rachel Jeter was on vacation with her family in Fort Meyers Beach.
  • She told Insider what it was like to ride out the storm in their beach rental.

BONITA SPRINGS, Florida — Rachel Jeter was supposed to be celebrating her 40th birthday on Friday.

Instead, she was at a hotel where she hadn't planned to stay, taking an Uber two hours across the state to Fort Lauderdale, the only place where she could rent a car to get home to Tennessee.

Courtesy of Rachel Jeter © Courtesy of Rachel Jeter Courtesy of Rachel Jeter

Her family had arrived at Fort Myers Beach on Saturday and spent a few days enjoying the sun and sand. But as the days passed, state and local officials began warning people about an impending hurricane.

Initially, the storm appeared to be heading closer to Tampa. But Fort Myers Beach turned out to be one of the hardest-hit communities.

Jeter found herself in the middle of the storm. She said she lost her car under 13 feet of water next to a beach rental where she and her family were staying. They had to walk 4 miles to safety after the storm passed.

Courtesy of Rachel Jeter © Courtesy of Rachel Jeter Courtesy of Rachel Jeter

Jeter said she and her family had stayed in the home because for days most locals had downplayed the hurricane. But on Tuesday night, the owner of the vacation home urged them to get out.

"At that point the winds were already bad, there were tornadoes, so we didn't want to drive," she said.

As her family was debating what to do the following morning, water started pouring into the house.

"Within 30 minutes it was already 4 to 5 feet high," she said.

They watched from the second floor of the house as the water kept rising.

"It was terrifying," she said. "We just kept watching out the windows praying that it didn't come up any higher."

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