The scenes of Hurricane Yang’s destruction are nothing short of catastrophic. Of the millions of Floridians who suffered damage to their homes or are still without power, there are countless stories of the lucky ones — whether by smart planning or fate — who escaped the hurricane’s wrath.

The hurricane, which reached Category 4, has killed about 50 people as of October 2. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power in the days after Ian crossed from Florida to the Carolinas. One of the strongest hurricanes in U.S. history made landfall midweek, leaving many storm victims isolated with limited cell service and without basic amenities like water and power. As of Oct. 1, nearly 1 million customers in Florida were without power.

The Columbus Jewish News spoke with some Ohioans affected by Hurricane Jan.


Ben and Arlene Roth of New Albany have a home in Fort Myers. The timing of their annual pilgrimage to Florida turned out to be fortuitous, as the Roths traditionally wait until after the High Holy Days before heading to their second home.

From his home in central Ohio, Ben watched the broadcast from his Ring doorbell in Fort Myers until the power went out. Roth learned from a neighbor in Fort Myers that his home and the homes of several of his neighbors were not damaged.

“I got a message from my friend that we are doing well,” said CJN Roth, who has lived in Florida for more than 20 years. “Our generator is still working.

“Our housemate has moved out. The water rose about 8 feet but did not reach his house.’

Roth, who attends Temple Beth Shalom in New Albany and Congregation Tiferet Israel in Columbus, considers himself lucky because his holiday schedule prevented him from meeting Jan.

“We’re lucky,” Roth said. “One hundred percent.”

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Simon Darcy

Scott Simon Darcy, formerly of the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst, considers himself lucky. Simon left the area 12 years ago and moved to Orlando, Florida. It was his first experience of the aftermath of a hurricane, and he shared the experience with his husband, Allen Darcy.

Simon Darcy’s home suffered only minor damage. He said “some of the covering came off the corner of the house” and even without electricity, Simon Darcy put his relative luck into perspective.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) I was in a frenzy trying to leave everything,” said CJN Simon Darcy, who grew up in Beachwood and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1974 at Warrensville Center Synagogue.

“It’s scary. It was raining heavily and there were two explosions in the early morning (Thursday). That’s when the electricity went out. We are safe. I have heard of some other areas of the state. We could be killed.”

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Streets and houses in Fort Myers, Florida near Chabad in southwest Florida the morning after the hurricane.

Significant quadrants of Orlando were physically damaged, but former Cleveland residents Lisa and Ron Bachman were spared any trouble.

“We’re just north of where the storm hit,” Lisa told the CJN. “We had no influence.

“We haven’t even lost power.”

Former Columbus resident Louis Saslav, who moved to Florida seven years ago and lives in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, had some unsettling moments with threatening rain and wind, but was unharmed. He escaped danger when Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017 and made it through the Ian saga unscathed.

“There are about 300 houses in our community,” Saslau told CJN. “Many limbs have fallen. The water was coming up over the bank next to us and was 15 feet up to our house. We dodged a bullet.”

Saslav, who attended Congregation Temple Israel and Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington, heard about several horror stories that happened in downtown Orlando.

“There are a lot of high-rise buildings that have underground parking,” Saslau said. “The water is up to the wing mirrors and a lot of cars are floating around like toys.”

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Just over a week after United Hatzalah sent a mission to Puerto Rico to help with Hurricane Fiona, the organization has sent a second aid group, this time to help in Florida after the devastation caused by Hurricane Jan. “This is our fastest time ever for a single mission,” Dov Maisel, United Hatzalah’s vice president of operations, said in a news release when the team departed Israel on Oct. 1. “Our team from Puerto Rico just got back. to Israel just before Shabbat, and the other team leaves for Florida tonight. I am proud of all our dedicated volunteers.”

Imagine the dismay of Rochelle and Stephen Walk when, in the middle of Rosh Hashanah services on Sept. 26, they were alerted from the bimah at Tampa’s Congregation Radef Shalom that the congregation — and their Tampa neighbors — had been ordered to evacuate.

“They told us to fight,” Rochelle told the CJN.

So they did. They traveled from Tampa to Beachwood, where they share time and have a home, and attend Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike when in the area.

For 15 years, Florida was the primary home of the Walks. Rochelle, who works with the Jewish Foundation, which acts as an umbrella program for Jewish federations across the state, has heard countless horror stories since Jan hit Florida’s southwest coast.

“You can’t contact anyone there unless they’ve left the area,” Rochelle said.

Rochelle said she hasn’t been able to connect with friends and associates in the worst-hit areas of Fort Myers and Naples, and hopes to be a part of the recovery effort.

“The federation in Naples and Fort Myers doesn’t even know where to turn to help,” she said. “There’s a group that’s getting ready to come down from Tampa on Sunday to help with anything.”

Steve Mark is a freelance journalist.