FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a tale of two mobile home parks Friday, just 200 yards apart.
On one side of Ortiz Avenue in this storm-ravaged city, residents of the Lazy J Mobile Home & RV Park returned to find that the trailers that are their homes had largely survived the wrath of Hurricane Ian, which killed more than a dozen people in Florida before leaving the state and barreling toward the Carolinas on Friday.
A few of the more than 150 or so trailers appeared to have some minor flooding and wind damage, but on the surface they looked mostly untouched.
The scene was far different on the other side of Ortiz Avenue, where residents of the Poinsettia Mobile Home Park were trying to salvage what they could from the wreckage left by a monstrous-but-fickle storm that rampaged through Fort Myers on Wednesday.
Many of them were retirees like 74-year-old Ken Williams, who moved from Wisconsin to spend his golden years soaking up the Florida sunshine in this park, which has more than 300 homes.
The trailer that Williams had moved into last year looked like it had been pried open with a can opener. The roof was completely torn off and he'd been without electricity for two days, like the more than 1.8 million other Floridians as of Friday, according to PowerOutage.us.
His insurance company has been completely unreachable, Williams said.
“This is devastating,” Williams said.
Fred Newhall, 87, said he had an epiphany as he sat in his wrecked mobile home eating Spam and cold beans. It was time, he said, to say goodbye to Florida and move in with his kids in New Hampshire.
“I’m getting too old to take care of this place and to be living by myself,” Newhall said. “There’s no sense in ever going through this again.”
His trailer, which Newhall bought in 1994, was bent so severely by the fury of the storm that he could no longer get the front door and the main window open.
The front porch was gone. So was the outdoor furniture. And so was the roof.
It was now twisted like a big metal pretzel and resting on the driveway.
Newhall said it was only a matter of time before the local drug addicts carry it off and sell it for whatever they can get.
"It's all scrap metal," he said, chuckling a bit. "The junkies are going to have a field day."
Surveying the wreckage, Newhall tried to put on a brave face.
“I don’t take all of this too seriously,” he said.
Nearby, 67-year-old Nancy Mattes was trying to help out her neighbors. Her trailer wasn't damaged so she was pitching in and helping clear debris from the pathways between the rows of wrecked homes.
As Mattes worked, a 70-year-old woman who identified herself only as Mona studied the side of her trailer. It had been pried open by Ian and she could see some of what she owns inside.
"Now it's time for cleanup," she said.
Meanwhile, residents over at the Lazy J Mobile Home & RV Park were counting their blessings.
“We lucked out, actually,” said 18-year-old Malik Castillo as he inspected his trailer. “I thought it would be much worse, to be honest. We were blessed.”
Other than a few knocked-over plants, Castillo said they suffered no other damage.
“I thought there was going to be flooding on the porch because when it rains hard it usually floods in there,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for other people, too, because they lost their homes.”
Don Hill, 67, said he, too, was surprised to find his trailer still in one piece. He said they’re not built to survive the kind of punishment that Hurricane Ian dished out on the other side of Ortiz Avenue.
“I feel sorry for everyone and hope they recover. You just have to have hope, keep praying and hope for the best,” he said.
One block over, in an area where mobile homes sit cheek by jowl with modest bungalows, 28-year-old Martin Herrera was marveling that his trailer had survived unscathed.
"I feel happy and fortunate that our house is still standing," Herrera said.
But as he looked around, Herrera said his joy was tempered by the massive destruction all around his neighborhood.
“We’re not happy because at the end of the day, yeah, our home is still here," he said. "But other people lost everything."
Deon J. Hampton reported from Fort Myers and Corky Siemaszko from New York City.