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Michiana family waiting to hear if home in FL survived Irma

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Their getaway in the sunshine state was already damaged last summer by Hurricane Matthew, so they expected the worst as Irma approached.

On Monday, after the hurricane swept through most of Florida, Jeffrey Wiles spoke by phone with one of his neighbors on Merritt Island, just east of Orlando.

“Part of the roads are washed away,” Wiles said he was told. “The neighbors were actually scooping water out of their house with shovels.”

Though Hurricane Irma’s eye traveled up the west coast of Florida, the storm’s size still managed to impact the entire state.

Wiles and his sister Gretta – who both grew up in St. Joe – purchased a vacation home with their family on Merritt Island a couple of years ago.

“I believe it was built in the 50s or 60s,” Wiles said. “But we completely remodeled it. So new windows, hurricane-proof, I mean, everything that’s needed to withstand a storm is there.”

And that came in handy.

Their home was first tested last summer, when Hurricane Matthew came through and destroyed their boathouse.

They rebuilt before Irma arrived, and are now waiting for their Floridian neighbors to send pictures of any new damage.

Wiles – who lived in Key West, Sarasota, and Tampa Bay for 10 years before moving back to Michiana – said this storm caught him and his friends a bit off guard.

“Everybody kind of blew it off up until the last week,” he said. “[That’s] when we actually got the final, ‘This is where it’s coming. This is where it’s going. Run.’ Pretty much.’”

He added: “Cause if it’s a category three, nobody really – it’s a storm. But when it gets in the [category] four and five, five is – you’re out of there.”

Wiles said most of his friends in Florida did evacuate ahead of the storm.

He’s flying down next week to check out his family’s home.

If you’re interested in donating to victims of Hurricane Harvey or Irma, one of many options in Michiana is the First United Methodist Church on E. 3rd Street in Mishawaka.

The church is collecting personal hygiene and cleaning kits through September, which will be delivered to Texas and Florida.

They’re looking for everything from hand towels and washcloths, nail clippers and files, to liquid laundry detergent and dish soap, and more.

For full details, you can click here.

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