Ashland man stuck in Florida as Hurricane Ian approaches

The couple speaks with WSAZ by phone about what they’ve seen and how they plan to ride out the storm
Man from Ashland stuck in Florida as Hurricane Ian hits
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 12:20 AM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) - After hitting western Cuba Tuesday morning, Hurricane Ian began a direct and destructive path toward Florida. The storm was expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm before reaching land in the U.S., packing 130-mile-per-hour winds.

Anyone in the storm’s path had two choices: they either have to evacuate or buckle down and buckling down is exactly what Mark Conley had to do. Conley is from Ashland, Kentucky, but owns property in the St. Petersburg area in Florida, directly in the path of Hurricane Ian. He flew down Monday night to try and protect his home-- wanting to board up windows, batten down the fences, and move outside decor indoors. However, that’s where his problems began.

Conley went to get the plywood needed to protect his home, but the Lowe’s he went to was all out. The following day stores in other states sent shipments, so he went back Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. and the line was out the door. The problem extends past trying to buy supplies. Conley says during his time there he’s seen ambulances lined up at a veterans hospital to evacuate the patients, people filling bags of sand at the beach because there aren’t enough sandbags to go around, and police officers going door to do telling them to pack up and leave.

“We are in Zone A, which is a red zone that is the first to evacuate,” Conley said. “I wasn’t going to until the sheriff’s deputies came by the neighborhood and he told me if you decide to stay we need you to get a magic marker and write your Social Security number across your stomach., That way, if we find you, we will know who you are and be able to identify you.”

Even if Conley wanted to return to the commonwealth, he can’t. He told WSAZ in an interview that all of the airports around him are closed and they can’t catch a flight back to safety. His other option would be getting into a vehicle and taking the long way. Conley says he’s tried that, but the roads are backed up and vehicles breaking down as they try to escape makes it even harder to get out.

In an effort to get somewhere safe, Conley says he has have moved about three hours inland.

Conley said he wasn’t worried at first but a warning from his brother who knows what impact a hurricane can have made him feel different.

“He was like, ‘Mark you don’t understand how serious this is. Some of the old-timers down here is saying that this is going to be the storm of the century. You need to get.’ ”