Help from afar

Students support family affected by Hurricane Ian


Hurricane Ian destroys cities near the coast, and causes trees to be knocked down. Photo courtesy of Dagny Hagerstrom

Story by Anita Pereira-Nunes and Mia Hagerstrom

On Sept. 28, 2022 Hurricane Ian made landfall in Fort Myers, Florida and caused $67 billion of damage. Throughout the following days the storm surge had effects that reached all across Florida until it finally dissipated in Virginia on Oct. 2. Many families were forced to evacuate, homes lost power, lots of properties were damaged, several people went missing, lots of casualties and fatalities, and major floods destroyed towns. Multiple students at East Lansing High School have relatives who were affected both physically and mentally. 

Kaedan Ondrus (12) (Largo)

When Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, it wasn’t the damage caused that scared Kaeden Ondrus (12)  and his mom, it was the fear that his Grandma Sharon lived there all alone and had no one but them to help. 

Ondrus’ grandma lives alone in Largo, FL just east of Tampa.  When the hurricane hit, although there wasn’t much damage done to her property, there was plenty of fear for her and her family. His grandmother was required to evacuate from her home, where she headed to a hotel in Clearwater, FL. 

“I feel kind of sad that I don’t talk to her more,” Ondrus said. “[Like] if something were to happen [and] I wasn’t there with her.” 

Ondrus and his mom have supported from afar through communication with his grandma. With them being her only family, as far away as they are, they stayed in touch to keep her spirits high. The last time they visited was Spring Break of junior year. They hope to visit again as soon as possible, but with the damage, it may be difficult. 

With little information on the matter until he looked into it himself, Ondrus didn’t know exactly what he could do.

“We’re just staying in touch, talking to her, keeping her happy because we are the only people that she really talks to now,” Ondrus said.

He has racked his brain trying to figure out how to help all the way from Michigan, and when he realized his grandma was in the evacuation zone it broke his heart. 

“I kind of started to panic, because there’s really not much I can do and I don’t have a lot of information,”  Ondrus said.  

Naomi Sowa (12) (Orlando)

For Naomi Sowa (12), it was a scary thought that her aunt and uncle were being hit by a hurricane across the state. Although Orlando wasn’t hit the worst, having children in the house made the situation scarier for their family. Even though the situation was stressful and sudden, Sowa kept herself calm knowing her family would be okay.

Knowing her grandma is with them and helping also brought comfort to her and her family. Sowas’ aunt and uncle lost  power for a brief moment, and with lots of flooding in the area she is just glad everyone is okay and safe. 

“It’s just a lot of communication and talking to each other,” Sowa said. “Keeping spirits high and making sure that they’re just feeling good and everything.”

They keep in touch with each other by FaceTime. While the adults talk with each other, their kids are heard running around and playing in the background. Knowing the kids are okay has been a major relief for Sowa and her family.

 “They’re just like running around oblivious to everything.” Sowa said. “So it was good that they were able to kind of still have fun while they’re [in a] really difficult [situation].”


Sophia Fickies’s (10) cousin, Maddie, evacuated from her dorm at Eckerd College. She had to live out of her car for a few days. (Photo courtesy of Madison Franklin)

Sophia Fickies (10) (St. Petersburg)

The dorms at Eckerd College sat empty while the people living in them waited in fear from a safer location. When Sophia Fickies’ (10) cousin Maddie moved away to go to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, she didn’t know she would endure one of the worst hurricanes they’ve had in years.

 Hurricane Ian not only led to her evacuation, but also to having to live in her car all alone. She had medicines that needed refrigeration, so after the hurricane hit she had to buy a generator. 

“It was really stressful hearing like about her situation and how she had to travel all alone after like being away for the first time ever,” Fickies said. 

Fickies and her family have been supporting from across the country as much as they can. There’s little to do in a situation like this, but communication has led many families struggling in Florida to keep a positive mindset.

“We’re always here to support her if she needs anything,” Fickies said.