Rockford man travels to Florida to ride out Hurricane Ian

As many people in the stateline may know people evacuating Florida to escape Hurricane Ian, one Rockford man does the opposite.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s not a story you hear every day. A hurricane hunter from Rockford finds himself in the middle of a storm, and it could go down as one of the strongest in Florida’s history.

“I believe the number is about a million people without power in this area, and there’s trees all over the place,” said Todd Byxbe.

Several emergency officials urge Florida residents to evacuate to safety, as Hurricane Ian barrels towards the state’s west coast Wednesday. But Byxbe is among the few making his way to the eye of the storm, against all warnings.

“Just like a tornado, it’s a thunderous sound,” said Byxbe. “A constant wind.”

Byxbe is currently in Sarasota, riding out the wrath of Hurricane Ian from a rental car. His goal is to travel towards the eye of the storm, while living off food and supplies in the trunk. Byxbe says he’s been battered by heavy rain and winds reaching up to 100 miles an hour, strong enough to spawn tornadoes.

“There won’t be any gas stations open until Friday, so I have to make sure I’m good with my gas usage,” said Byxbe. “The people that live here.. down in Punta Gorda, Sanibel Island, all underwater. It’s a tragic circumstance.”

That’s why Byxbe and disaster relief leaders say its up to us to make a difference.

“It could be days, weeks or even more so of clean up,” said City First Church Pastor of Staff and Ministry Development Lisa Seaton.

“There’s so much people can do behind the scenes to make sure everyone is ready to go out, and meet the needs of those affected,” said Red Cross Illinois Communications Manager.

As volunteers pour in to Florida, both City First Church in Rockford and Red Cross Illinois officials say donating is the best way to ease at least of some of the burden. Byxbe says he’s seen some of the groups firsthand.

“I’ve seen just hoards of utility trucks coming in to help assist in the clean up,” said Byxbe.