NORTH PORT, Fla. - From first responders answering seemingly endless calls for help at the height of the storm, to city officials working to repair roads and make them stronger for the future, the city of North Port has been through a lot since Hurricane Ian.
FOX 13's Good Day Tampa Bay team is on the ground in Sarasota County Friday, hearing first-hand accounts from those who survived the storm.
Community of Unity
North Port has never been a more united community than it's been after Hurricane Ian.
They're embracing the motto "Community of Unity" and it's an appropriate title.
Neighbors became rescuers. First responders became more than lifelines. And the recovery has become a symbol of hope for everyone in Sarasota County.
They even have t-shirts available on the city's website.
AmVets post sees Ian's worst
The second-largest American Veterans post in Florida, AmVets Post 312, was hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Their roof was completely torn off and caved in and nearly everything was ruined. But their insurance won't cover most of the damage, so they're asking for the community's help to get back to where they were.
Helping those who do the most good
The Salvation Army is there to help during times of crisis, but after Hurricane Ian walloped Sarasota County, the volunteers there were left needing a helping hand of their own. Their, Lt. Col. Michele Matthews, explained that their distribution center had just been renovated before the storm and they're determined to rebuild again.
Alex Keith watch his neighborhood turn to a river, but he didn't sit back and wait for help. He fired up his boat and set out to help others.
From disaster comes musical inspiration
Rock Box music school student Andy Johnson wanted to honor victims of Hurricane Ian and give hope to those working on recovery.
His song, simply titled "The Storm," is anything but simple. It's included on the school's Student Compilation Vol 6 CD, which will be available at The Rock Box Music School & Stage this holiday season.
The recovery's front line
Sarasota County and city of North Port first responders answer calls for help when disasters strike. For most police and fire rescue crews, they had to leave their own families and homes to help others in the face of a massive storm.
Police Chief Todd Garrison said his officers were "completely cut off" from their families as the worst of the storm moved through. But they live to serve and were able to get through Hurricane Ian and continue helping others.
Sarasota students left home after schools become shelters
It's typical for school buildings to become shelter locations during a hurricane. The infrastructure is secure and the amenities are suited for hosting those who need help and refuge from a storm.
But in Sarasota County, shelters had to remain open, some for more than a week, meaning they couldn't welcome students back in. Other schools were so badly damaged during the storm, they still require extensive repairs.
Favorite restaurants, businesses reopen
It was formerly Austin's Olde World Restaurant, but after extensive damage from Hurricane Ian, owner Mike Austin decided to reopen as Austin's North Port.
Peace River flooding leaves rural areas underwater
Parts of Hardee County remained underwater days after Hurricane Ian, as the Peace River flooded rural areas of the Riverview and Wauchula communities.
Neighbors used boats to shuttle people to and from their homes, but all they could do was wait for the water to reside.
First responders face the worst of Hurricane Ian's wrath
North Port Fire Chief Scott Titus said the moments during the storm, and the days after when many residents needed help to escape flooding, were some of the hardest for his crews. But he said help from agencies across Florida, and everyday citizens, who swooped in to help with rescues, likely saved dozens of lives.
Sanibel mayor says nationwide support brings hope
Out of state crews remain to support recovery
Sarasota County's emergency communications director says patience is key as out of state crews continue to help rebuild after the hurricane.
Residents deal with constant reminders
Blue tarps and debris are still a familiar sight in North Port. Home and business owners are working to rebuild, but they also hope for moments of relief.
Five months ago Darli Iakovleva and her husband opened their first dance studio. Now, they're practicing in space at the Gallery of North Port, so they can put on their performance of "The Nutcracker," as planned.
Animal rescuers hit hard
The Suncoast Human Society in Englewood may be one of the hardest-hit organizations during Hurricane Ian. Thankfully, they were able to evacuate the animals before th storm, but they returned to devastation. Their facility was inoperable.
Suncoast Humane Society CEO Maureen O'Nell said there were cars overturned on their property, buildings had been flooded and many areas were inaccessible. Cleanup is taking time.
For information on how to help, visit the Suncoast Humane Society's website by clicking here.
Wholistic approach to recovery
North Port City Manager Jerome Fletcher says every aspect of residents' lives were impacted by Hurricane Ian, from income to infrastructure, so the city has hired help to assess residents' needs and solve problems faster.
"We're now engaging our residents engaging the business is making sure that we know their needs and make sure that they have the hope and help that they want to recover. And at this point what do you think folks need what their businesses need. [Citizens and business] always are going to need financial assistance, whether before the storm or after, but right now, with getting their infrastructure back in place," Fletcher told FOX 13's Russell Rhodes.