Former Butler County residents living in path of Hurricane Ian will ‘hunker down’

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Nick Snook, like tens of thousands of Floridians, got the emergency notification text Monday afternoon from the National Weather Service informing him of a hurricane warning, as Hurricane Ian approaches.

Part of the text reads: “This warning is issued up to 36 hours before hazardous conditions begin. Urgently complete efforts to protect life and property. Have food, water, cash, fuel, and medications for 3+ days”.

“When I did get that text message about life-threatening conditions. I’ve never gotten that before,” Snook said.

Snook spent more than two decades living in West Chester Twp. He moved to Pinellas County, west of Tampa, several months ago. His home isn’t in the flood zone, and he’s chosen to hunker down.

“The one thing we can control is being proactive through whatever comes our way,” he said.

Snook said he isn’t alone. In the past 24 hours, he’s received text messages and social media notifications about others in his area who are happy to help.

“Getting text messages, calls, people reaching out. Hey if you need a place to stay, food, water, if you need me to drop off sandbags. There’s a big sense of community here,” he said.

In the hours leading up to the hurricane possibly making landfall, he said he’s focused on doing what the can to give a helping hand to others. He said many stores are overcrowded.

“I did leave my house recently to go to a sandbag station. You can put sandbags around your house. Flooding is a big risk. Those sandbag stations are flooded with people right now,” he added. “For the most part, everyone is remaining calm, but you can see in people’s faces. People are worried.”

North on U.S. 19 in Clearwater, your senses might remind you of a familiar taste and smell — Cincinnati style chili.

“Nothing like a good coney to cheer you up!” Bill Kirk, co-owner of the Cincinnati Chili Company said.

Kirk said the Clearwater location opened two months ago. Right now, his focus is on his employees.

“Right now we’re thinking we stay open for lunch tomorrow, and then on Wednesday we close,” Kirk added. “Reach out to staff on Thursday. See what the conditions are like then. See if we should open up again on Thursday.”

He said the business isn’t located in a flood zone, but his focus is on the potential for strong wind gusts, and power outages.

“If we do have power, and other people don’t have power, it would be good to be open so we could serve food to the public as well. Which is something we’d like to do, of course,” he said.

Both Kirk and Snook said they’ll ride out whatever the hurricane brings.

“We’re being brave. We’re just as nervous as everyone else back home,” Snook said.

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