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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–A Hoosier who lives in Florida evacuated before Hurricane Ian hit. Although she’s dealing with the occasional power outage and some flooding, both she and her family are safe.

Whitney Parks grew up in Greenwood, Indiana and graduated from Center Grove High School. She moved to Florida in 2006. Now she is a real estate agent.

“As Ian smashed Fort Myers, I was actually supposed to close on a home down in that region with some friends from Indiana who were purchasing a home down there. Obviously, that has gone to the wayside for now. I will be traveling down there next week to check on it to see if there was any damage done. Hurricanes definitely affect the real estate business,” said Parks.

She’ll worry about her job later. Parks says the important thing is taking care of the immediate needs for both herself and her three children. She lives in Safety Harbor. That is a city on the west shore of Tampa Bay in Pinellas County, Florida. She, her kids, and her dogs evacuated to St. Augustine, which is on the northeast side of Florida.

“We were anticipating a direct hit. The surge was the biggest factor. Luckily I chose a rental house in St. Augustine that is inland a little bit, but we are getting flooding. We are experiencing our power going in and out. We’re still dealing with a surge and high wind speeds even though Ian has become a tropical storm. I just feel blessed that I was able to prepare my home and my family to make sure we were all safe,” said Parks.

Parks would often vacation to Florida when she was a kid and loves it too much to get out of the state permanently.

“I have been here for 16 years. I have evacuated twice, once for Irma back in 2017. I just had a baby at the time, so I felt like it was the right thing to do. We actually went all the way back to Indiana for that one. Fast forward five years later, I now have three children. I boarded up the house and hit the road again. It is not common for us to have storms of this magnitude. We have not seen something of this magnitude in Florida in over 100 years. I LOVE it down here. We had a week to prepare. If you compare it to tornado, you don’t really have time to prepare with that and with hurricanes you have more time. Every state has its natural disasters to deal with,” said Parks.

She says it’s been nice to see electrical lineman from Indiana show up in Florida to help restore power.

“Even with all of their efforts, it is still going to take a very long time to get everything restored. In some places, it is a total loss. So it will be a complete rebuild of some towns and cities. We just pray for those people that they will rebuild. We will rebuild,” said Parks.

LEAD: Full interview with Whitney Parks