OSTEEN, Fla. – Hurricane Ian brought some of the worst flooding on record to Central Florida but it also brought out the best in our community.
When the rain finally stopped falling, Brian Alexander hitched his airboat to his pick-up truck and headed towards the back roads of Osteen to help.
“I have the means to help so that’s what I’m doing,” Alexander said from a seat perched high above his 14-foot Alumitech airboat.
The flat bottom boat glides a foot or so above the pavement on Lemon Bluff Road. This section of Osteen is right up against the St Johns River and was one of the first to flood.
“Devastation, that’s what I’ve seen,” Alexander said as his boat passed driveways and speed limit signs. “I’ve seen a lot of people that were lucky enough, they evacuated before it got this high. Some refused to leave.”
Alice Ortiz-Hernandez and her husband, Juan Hernandez, were in another category. Their home, a few miles away off Osteen Maytown Road, has never flooded before and they didn’t expect it to be a problem this time. Soon after Ian blew through that all changed.
“This looked like the ocean,” Hernandez said looking out on his 10-acre property. “The water was banging,” Hernandez said, describing how debris collected against his out-buildings and garage.
“The water came all the way to here,” Alice Ortiz-Hernandez added. She was standing feet from the walls of her home.
The two live on a dirt road that was now a few feet underwater. They couldn’t leave.
“We were stranded. Really we were stranded,” Ortiz remembered. “There was no way we could get out of here. No way, if you didn’t have a boat. We didn’t have a boat.”
“They didn’t have access to the main road,” Alexander said. “This way they could at least get high and dry and to the road so they weren’t walking through with snakes. The snakes are a serious concern out here.”
Ortiz said she remembers when she first heard Alexander coming down her road in his airboat.
“There was a lot of noise at my gate,” Ortiz said. “I went out and that’s the first time I saw him. He had gas and water and he picked someone else up out on the road.”
“Whatever they needed, it doesn’t matter what it is, if I’m able to get it out there it’s going to be delivered,” Alexander said.
He said he delivered fuel for generators and even helped first responders check on residents.
Alexander would come to help Ortiz two more times. One visit was to bring her out so she could make it to a doctor’s appointment. Ortiz has been diagnosed with cancer.
“That appointment was really important,” Ortiz said, “because there were days that I couldn’t sleep just waiting to see what’s going to happen.”
But on a week that brought so much stress and worry, Ortiz said that appointment actually brought some good news.
“That day I cried a lot, because when I went to his office, the doctor said he couldn’t find the cancer,” Ortiz said with a smile. “I cried but I cried with happiness and being blessed. Brian did that for me.”
Ortiz nominated Alexander for the News 6 Getting Results Award.
“Brian should be recognized as a hero,” Ortiz said. “I am so grateful for all he did for us. My family and my neighbors.”