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Hundreds of North Port residents trapped by flooded waters after Hurricane Ian

Two men in camouflage stand in  a flooded street with a highway traffic sign in the background.
Cathy Carter
WUSF Public Media
National Guard troops from Bonifay, in Florida's panhandle, came Friday to assist with the rescue of residents trapped in flooded neighborhoods in North Port.

Multiple agencies are conducting water rescues in the North Port Estates community in southern Sarasota County.

Todd Grimm parked his truck on the shoulder of exit 182 off I-75 Friday morning and looked at a body of water where pavement is typically present.

He wasn't the only one to queue up near large orange and white hazard signs that indicated the off ramp was closed.

Several other residents looked on as several army vehicles pulled up and National Guard members hopped out to survey the scene.

Grimm lives in North Port Estates, which borders Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in southern Sarasota County.

"(Thursday) we had four feet of water in the street, so everybody was on an island at their houses just watching the water rise and rise," he said. "Everybody had their boats and their kayaks and our neighbor had a monster truck and he barely got us out."

On Friday, several residents were paddling back into the neighborhood, where hundreds of people remain trapped following Hurricane Ian.

Man in shorts, blue shirt and sunhat stands next to orange kayak.
Cathy Carter
J.J Woods prepares to kayak supplies into flooded waters off I-75 to reach his parents home in North Port.

J.J. Woods' parents' home is not yet flooded -- but, like thousands in North Port, they remain without power, so he launched a kayak at the flooded exit.

"My parents...they're trapped back there with the water, hopefully it doesn't get any higher, but I'm just trying to get some gas back to them so their generator stays running," he said.

City officials say the water from Myakkahatchee Creek is not receding fast enough.

"There is a strong potential for the water levels throughout the city to continue rising over the days ahead as the rainwater Hurricane Ian dumped to the north of us flows south," North Port Emergency Manager Mike Ryan said at a press conference Thursday.

The American Red Cross has sent up a shelter at Woodland Middle School in North Port for residents who cannot return home to flooded areas of the city.

For now, Grimm and his family are staying at a hotel in Venice.

He said he has been unable to contact his neighbors and assumes his home is a total loss.

His wife stood by him on the interstate in tears.

She said that all she wants is to get back home to retrieve the urns containing her son and grandson's remains.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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