FORT MYERS, Fla. - Lessons learned after Hurricane Andrew helped emergency managers here in Southwest Florida better prepare for Hurricanes Charley and Wilma. One Southwest Florida woman can attest to just how true that was. She walked away from Andrew only to lose everything again in Hurricane Charley.
Carolan Merone recalls the frightening warning she and all Homestead residents got just before Hurricane Andrew hit.
"We were certainly ground zero," she recalled.
After hearing the call to get out, she took shelter in the Miami area.
"It sounded like about 12 freight trains coming through," Carolan remembered.
And after a few hours when the storm blew through, she got a chance to survey the damage.
"We didn't recognize, we didn't recognize a single thing of a place that we lived in for 20 years."
While Carolan's family found their house standing, everything they owned was destroyed.
"Everything our daughters ever owned, all of our memorabilia, and-- that's when more of the emotion came out," Carolan shared with us.
What she couldn't walk away with, vandals stole.
"Refrigerator, washer dryer, anything they could have taken, they did," she said.
Carolan, who recently retired from the post office after more than 30 years, said her entire route of 800 residents was wiped out. But she still showed up for work everyday. Finally she got a transfer and found a new life, in Punta Gorda.
But 12 years later, Hurricane Charley came onshore in Punta Gorda.
"It had taken a right hand turn and was headed straight for what seemed to be my route. And headed straight down 17 to where my house was and once again, we found ourselves homeless because of a hurricane," said Carolan.
Not one to stay down for long, she kept a positive attitude and was grateful Hurricane Charley was not as devastating as she knew it could have been.
"One of those great impacts were, you looked around and every pine tree... they were all snapped in half... it looked as if a bomb had hit it as if it were like a WWII devastation, there was nothing alive," she shared. "Whereas in Charley in Charlotte County, I looked around the trees still had green leaves. And I thought to myself, it was bad, but it wasn't like Andrew."
And after all she went through, Carolan still has faith that someone is watching out for her.
"Always fall back on the Lord. His word is sure to us. Our faith is strong in Him and no matter what comes, He will bring us through," she told us.
Some advice Carolan wanted to pass along? Always leave before a storm, don't try to ride it out. And have plenty of pillow cases on hand. She says you won't be able to find boxes after a storm and pillow cases are sturdy and great for throwing your items in if you have to pickup after a storm.