A Southwest Florida man is “thankful to be alive” after he weathered Hurricane Ian in a dinghy tied to his pickup truck.
Robert Long shared his story with The New York Post this week and explained that after watching the radar leading to the Sept. 28 landfall, he thought a “small branch” through his roof or a power outage would be the worst-case scenario. So he was surprised when the situation went from bad to worse quickly.
Long lived near the coastline, and the storm surge began taking over his neighborhood.
“I had no intentions of moving until I saw the water coming up and knew that that was a real problem at that point,” he shared.
Once Long realized that flooding was inevitable, he started thinking through his options. It was too late to evacuate with 125 mph winds gusting. And after seeing that one of his neighbors was trapped in her home with water almost up to her roof, he knew he couldn’t stay inside. That’s when he decided to take refuge in his small boat.
“I knew being trapped indoors wasn’t an option,” Long said. “I took the least of the evils—I grabbed the boat. And I went to the highest part of the property that I knew there was a fixed object that I could anchor to.”
Hurricane Ian Survivor Spent Over 2 Hours Hoping the Storm Wouldn’t Toss Him Out to Sea
His pickup truck was the anchor, and luckily it held strong. For over 2 hours, Long sat in his boat as Hurricane Ian tossed with rain, water, and wind. Through the harrowing ordeal, Long wondered what he’d do if the anchor broke loose because he had no paddles if he floated away.
“I’m thankful to be alive,” he admitted. “It was a wild experience. And I’m glad I got to participate in it – it exactly wasn’t a front-row seat that I was counting on.”
Ahead of Hurricane Ian, officials ordered more than 2.5 million evacuations. But many, including Long, did not listen. After the experience, he recommended that people living in the path of major hurricanes follow emergency protocol.
The storm caused about 100 deaths, and some of them could have been avoided had people moved to higher ground.
“There’s a lot of people that didn’t survive, and my heart will always be heavy for those people because I know in their last moments how they felt, and it was hopeless,” he added. “There’s nobody to call. You’re your own first responder. All you can do is try not to get hurt.”