Fla. Woman Reunites with Dad Who Disappeared in Hurricane Ian Flood Waters and Clung to Tree for 3 Hours

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As flood water from Hurricane Ian rose in her Rotonda West, Florida, home round 2 p.M. Wednesday, Stephanie Downing got a text message from her father, Stan Pentz, who become over an hour away at his home in Fort Myers. He stated the water turned into as much as his shoulders, and he could not get out.

Standing on her kitchen desk, Downing known as him at the cellphone and screamed, telling him to break a window or do whatever to get out and swim to protection.

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Then the call dropped. Every time she referred to as lower back, it went to voicemail. Then she misplaced all cellular carrier.

“The last element I heard my dad say became, ‘I suppose I’m going to drown,'” Downing, a 32-12 months-antique bodily therapist, tells PEOPLE.

As she feared for the worst, her neighbors instructed her that they had heard the death toll in badly hit Fort Myers become growing.

“I just looked at my husband and said, ‘I think my dad is one of these those who are dead,'” Downing recalls.

“When I noticed my sister, we did not even say phrases to every other. We simply held each other and cried, because we idea our dad became long past.”

She faced that capability reality for the following 20 hours until she ultimately gained get admission to to net round 10:45 a.M.

Thursday. A text message from a stranger become looking forward to her: “I’m here with your dad.”

“My sister fell to the floor crying,” says Downing. “I simply fell right into a chair with my head in my fingers, announcing, ‘Oh my God, he is alive.'”

Pentz, a 69-yr-vintage retired chef who lives in a one-tale condominium building within the Iona community of Lee County, became constantly in touch with his daughter as the hurricane approached. At first he placed down towels while the water started seeping into his domestic. But then the water smashed through his sliding glass doors. Within one hour, it rose 6 feet.

Inner his domestic. The water was dashing at him from each sides, and he couldn’t get out of the residence, he informed his daughter over text message. Downing called him.

“He instructed me at the cellphone, ‘I’m scared I’m going to drown if I get out.’ Because he said the tide turned into in order that speedy,” she explains. “I said, ‘You want to get out now. Swim!’

“I’m status on my kitchen desk screaming,” she recollects. “My husband’s screaming in the returned, ‘Grab your meat mallet and damage open a window.’ And then the road went useless.”

As Downing feared for the worst, Pentz jumped into action: he clung to the tops of his window blinds, dove thru a gap and swam over his automobile within the direction of the 2-story building round the corner. Pentz swallowed water. “He notion, ‘Okay, this is it. I am going to drown,'” Downing says.

He could not fight the modern-day, so he let it take him. Then the water slammed him right into a palm tree, wherein Pentz — who recently had a hip alternative — clung for his life for three hours.

“He hooked his hands and his legs around the tree branches and just held on,” Downing says.

As the solar started out to set, Pentz became capable of placed his feet on the ground. He waded to a nearby residence and huddled between the display screen and the the front door.

At dawn, he waded although knee-deep water. Next, the barefoot man walked a few miles to the Publix grocery shop in which he works component time.

A stranger there helped him get phrase to his daughter.

Within hours, Downing’s sister changed into able to select up her dad and take him to their mother’s house.

“I walked in and my stepdad told my youngsters, ‘Someone special is here,'” Downing says. “I noticed my dad sitting in a chair and I’m much like, ‘Oh my God!'”

“I put my head on his chest,” she maintains.  “I checked out him and said, ‘Hey Michael Phelps.

You did some swimming, huh?’ I stated, ‘I feel like I’m looking at a ghost.’ And he was like, ‘I feel like I must be dead.'”

Pentz’s apartment is unrecognizable, his liked file series is smashed and his golf golf equipment are long past, but they’re retaining all of it in attitude.
“He is surely a survivor, and I am in order that grateful,” she posted on Facebook.

“We’re just staying tremendous and knowing that humans, not belongings, is what topics,” says Downing, who is staying at a St. Petersburg motel with her dad and assisting him with calls to FEMA, the Red Cross and his coverage organization. She additionally launched a GoFundMe campaign after people asked how they are able to assist her dad get lower back on his ft.

“We’ve been thru Hurricane Charley [in 2004], we recognize that we can rebuild,” she tells PEOPLE.

“We recognise that we are a community. We understand that we are sturdy and anybody is there for each other.”

“We hadn’t even met some of our acquaintances earlier than, but now we are like best pals,” she adds.

“We’re like, ‘What do you need? Do you need us? Where’s my chainsaw? Let me chainsaw my tree off your property.'”

“Our community is genuinely strong,” she keeps. “That’s what offers me hope.” Hurricane Ian made landfall as an “extraordinarily dangerous” Category 4 typhoon with sustained winds of 150 mph on Wednesday simply after three p.M. Local time, near Cayo Costa, Fla., consistent with the National Hurricane Center.

By Thursday morning, greater than 2.5 million people in Florida have been with out power because of the tremendous devastation due to the storm, which snapped apart bushes, leveled homes and tore down electricity traces throughout the coastline. Storm surges reached nearly 7 toes. High in areas like Fort Myers, while 12 feet. Water degrees were recorded in Naples.

“We’ve never seen typhoon surge of this value,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis informed reporters Friday.

“The amount of water it is been rising, and will probable retain to upward push nowadays at the same time as the hurricane is passing, is essentially a 500-12 months flooding event.”

At least 67 people in Florida have been killed, CNN suggested Sunday, citing officials. Thousands extra were unaccounted for.

President Joe Biden stated Ian “can be the deadliest storm in Florida’s records” all through an deal with from FEMA headquarters on Thursday.

“The numbers we have are still unclear, however we are hearing early reports of what can be significant loss of existence,” the president added.

“We know many families are hurting. Many, many, are hurting nowadays.”


Ian made its third landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm on Friday afternoon. At least 4 deaths were pronounced in North Carolina because of hurricane-associated occasions.