Henderson County News: Couple move here after being rescued from Hurricane Ian

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A couple move here after being rescued from Hurricane Ian

James and Lorene Capek in their new home at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Village. [AMY B. MCCRAW/Hendersonville Lightning]

Change is never easy.

But being forced to get up and start a new life at the age of 91 seems particularly cruel.
“It’s not fun when you get old and they want you to start over,” James Capek said as he scrolled through digital images of some of the things he and his wife, Lorene, lost to the hurricane. Ian. “You don’t deal with that stuff when you’re older like you do when you’re young.”
The Capeks, who are both 91, lost virtually everything when the mighty hurricane hit their Fort Myers, Florida home in September. Ian hit southwest Florida with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just ahead of a Category 5 storm. And Fort Myers saw a record storm surge of 7¼ feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Wind from the storm damaged the exterior of the Capeks’ double-wide mobile home and waist-deep seawater poured in before Ian continued to wreak more havoc across the state. and in the Carolinas.
The Capeks stayed put during the storm and spent a few rough nights alone in their flooded home before local sheriff’s deputies rescued them.
After a tough few days in a shelter, their daughter, who lives in Transylvania County, found them a place at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Village in Hendersonville.
They said their move to Hendersonville from their now destroyed home they loved in Florida was bittersweet.
“We like it here,” Lorene said. “It would be nice to have a car, but it was also flooded. We kind of want to be closer to our daughter. Some people have it much worse than us.

high school sweethearts

James and Lorene Capek met in high school in Indiana and married when they were 19. Shortly after their marriage, James was drafted and served in the U.S. Marines in Korea from 1952 to 1954.
Upon returning from military service, James and Lorene bought a farm in Indiana and started a family. The couple also enjoyed occasional visits to Florida.
In 1984, they had purchased the double-wide in a Fort Myers mobile home park and officially changed residence to the Sunshine State.
The Capeks were the youngest couple in the park and a few years away from park policy that required residents to be at least 55 years old.
“They broke the rules to let us in,” James said with a laugh.
The couple made friends in the community. James fell in love with fishing and he and a neighbor took advantage of every opportunity.
“I loved fishing,” he said. “After that, I always liked plants. I had orchids in the basement. I hope my friends will collect them and enjoy them.
Over the years they have dodged a few hurricanes.
One of them caused damage covered by insurance. Another time the Capeks evacuated thinking a big storm might hit their area. But when they came back, the power was on and the streets were dry. The storm had missed their community.
They could no longer pay for insurance by the time Ian arrived and if they had coverage it would have only paid $45,000, James said.
The Capeks decided to take a chance and not evacuate when they learned that Ian might be heading their way.
As the storm moved, James captured footage on his iPad.
Among the snaps of his beloved orchids, James snapped photos of part of his downed neighbor’s roof, a toppled mango tree and damage to the exterior of his home. A few photographs show seawater flooding the veranda of her home with furniture and other household items floating around.
James set to work salvaging what he could as their house began to flood.
“I was starting to put things higher because I didn’t know how far it would go,” he said.
The water eventually rose waist-deep inside the house and at one point, James said, it looked like the double-width had turned into a boat.
Once the storm passed and the waters receded, the Capeks took stock. They had no electricity and the plumbing no longer worked.
Their furniture and anything James couldn’t store high up was ruined. Their car had taken off and even his hearing aid had been lost.
“You don’t realize how much you’ve lost until you’ve lost it,” James said.
When he crawled under the house to determine why they had no running water, James saw what made him feel like he was on a boat during the storm. The double-width had floated an inch and a half off its foundation during the storm.

At the end of their endurance

The two survived as best they could in the flooded house until sheriff’s deputies arrived two or three days later.
“My daughter was worried about us. So they sent a sheriff after us and they put us in a shelter,” James said. “He said, ‘Your kids want you to go.'”
The authorities had a wheelchair lift for Lorene and were all helpful and kind. And at that point, the two were ready to go.
“I didn’t feel in danger at any time. But it was more than the old man could handle,” James said. “You are almost at the end of your stamina.”
Their daughter, Vickie Seliga, came from her home in Brevard and picked them up at the shelter a few days later. She installed them in Lake Pointe.
Their daughter also helps them deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Veterans Administration. A new hearing aid for James is due to arrive any day from the VA.
The Capeks also shopped with their daughter for some immediate items they needed to start over in Hendersonville.
They have a bed, sofa and lounge chair, dining table and chairs, TV on a small cabinet, and James has recently put together a new computer cabinet. The two said they also had all the clothes they needed.
“It’s a bit empty. But we’ll fill it, Lorene said looking around at the walls devoid of family photos.
Their granddaughter is sorting through their belongings at home in Florida to see what could be salvaged.
The Capeks said they hoped some of the photographs hanging on the walls would have survived. But James said he expected the photos from his time in Korea probably wouldn’t.
“It’s so many things,” he said.
James said he’ll likely know in a few weeks what weathered the storm and what didn’t.
“It will be like Christmas,” he said.
In the meantime, the two get acquainted with their new home and try to hold back. They appreciate the people of Hendersonville and were thrilled to see the fall foliage.
The fact that they now live near their daughter, granddaughter and great-grandchildren is also a plus, they said.
“I think we’ll stay here,” Lorene said. “We’ve been dry here so far. One day we will laugh, if we live long enough.

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