Daniel Glaun woke up Thursday morning not knowing if his home was a victim of Hurricane Ian.
Glaun, a reporter for the News-Press, a broadsheet service in Fort Myers, Fla., slept in a mattress pad inside NPR affiliate WGCU’s building, which has become a haven for area reporters in need of reliable Internet connection and power.
But instead of trying to find his way home to check the status of his life possessions, Glaun set out to do his job. Berriak-Prentasan is just one of dozens of journalists in the decimated city working to cover the disaster while managing the destruction left in their lives.
“Honestly, I have it easy,” Glaun told me over the phone Thursday afternoon when I asked how difficult that was supposed to be. “I’m on rent. I don’t have children. So it’s a drawback for me.”
“I have colleagues who have lived here for a long time, who are homeowners and have families, whose homes have been destroyed and it’s very difficult for them,” Glaun added. “They’re doing an incredible job here of being on the front lines reporting and dealing with a personal crisis.”
Around 10:30 in the morning, Glaun set off with a photographer and another reporter in an SUV to survey the damage Ian had left behind. The scenes were awesome.
“Once you get within a couple of miles of the water, it’s completely decimated,” Glaun explained. “There were containers that were thrown from the road. Cars were submerged. … We saw a neighborhood and the houses were completely destroyed.”
But Glaun and his colleagues couldn’t report that information in real time. The storm knocked out cell phone service in the area, making it difficult for residents to communicate, as well as for reporters to report from the area.
So the trio of reporters collected the cable and the photos before returning to the NPR office. From there, they transfer submissions and images to paper.
Glaun told me it’s not a Florida narrative. In fact, he only moved to the Fort Myers area about nine months ago. But he said “everyone” he’s spoken to has made one thing clear to him: Ian is “one of the worst hurricanes to hit Southwest Florida in recent memory.”
“The scale of the devastation and the lack of communication,” Glaun said, “screams to me that people need immediate and long-term help.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.