Daniel Glaun woke up on Thursday morning not knowing whether or not his home had fallen victim to Hurricane Ian.
Glaun, a reporter at the News-Press, the broadsheet that services Fort Myers, Florida, had slept on a mattress cover inside NPR affiliate WGCU’s building, which has become a refuge for journalists in the region who needed a reliable internet connection and power.
But instead of trying to find his way home to check on the status of his life possessions, Glaun set out to do his job. He’s just one of dozens of reporters at the News-Press and elsewhere in the decimated city working to report on the catastrophe while also managing the destruction left behind in their own lives.
“Honestly I have it easy,” Glaun told me by phone Thursday afternoon when I asked how difficult that must have been. “I’m renting. I don’t have kids. So for me it is an inconvenience.”
“I have colleagues who have lived here a long time, who have owned homes and have families, whose houses are devastated and it’s really hard for them,” Glaun added. “They’re doing an incredible job of being on frontlines here reporting and dealing with a personal crisis.”
At around 10:30 a.m., Glaun set out with a photographer and another reporter in an SUV to survey the damage that Ian had left behind. The scenes were jarring.
“Once you get within a couple miles of the water, it’s completely decimated,” Glaun explained. “There were boats that were thrown across the road. There were submerged cars. … We saw a neighborhood and the houses were totally wrecked.”
But Glaun and his colleagues could not report any of this information in real-time. The storm had knocked out cell phone service in the area, making it hard for residents to communicate, as well as journalists to report from the field.
So the trio of reporters gathered string and photographs before heading back to the NPR office. From there, they field their dispatches and images to the paper.
Glaun told me that he isn’t a Florida narrative. In fact, he only moved to the Fort Myers area about nine months ago. But he said that “everyone” he has spoken to has made one thing clear to him: Ian is “one of the worst hurricanes to hit Southwest Florida in recent memory.”
“The scale of devastation and lack of communications,” Glaun said, “it screams to me that people are in desperate need of immediate and long term help.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.