Breaking News
More () »

St. Louis natives ride out Hurricane Ian, help out others

Millions of Floridians have evacuated Florida now that Hurricane Ian made landfall.

ST. LOUIS — Hurricane Ian hit with winds around 150 mph, just shy of a powerful Category 5 storm.

Millions of people evacuated ahead of the storm, but some of them chose to stick around, including some with ties to St. Louis.

"We've already lost power, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the day," St. Louis native and now Tampa resident Kelli Stuart said.

Stuart's no stranger to hurricanes. She and her family already made it through Hurricane Irma.

"We actually went to a shelter for that one because we didn't feel comfortable riding it out in our house."

Now, without power but with persistence, they plan to stay put for Hurricane Ian.

Kenneth Roberts, a Belleville native, has the same plan.

"If I had to guess, the winds are probably about 45 to 55 mph right now," Roberts told 5 On Your Side Wednesday afternoon.

Roberts and his wife retired to Tampa just this past year. While they were excited for beach time and sunny weather, they're now dealing with this.

"I've been through some tornadoes and I've seen all the clouds as they race through the sky," Roberts said. "Here they race even faster."

But even in these scary waters, Stuart is helping those nearest to her heart: Ukrainian refugees who settled in Tampa.

"My husband and I are the sponsors for a family of 8," Stuart said.

Stuart visited Ukraine several times growing up, living there at one point and touring there for a book she was writing at another point.

She said most of the refugees she's been helping have never seen a hurricane.

"There are some new families in town we were working to help get shelter, and make sure they had some beds to sleep on and some mattresses," she said.

The waves are crashing on the coast of Florida, but these Ukrainian refugees are turning her tides.

"It's just been such a gift for me to know them because now they're turning the tides, and they're blessing me."

Now they're helping her. She just found out weeks ago she has stage 2 cancer, and her surgery was postponed because of the hurricane. While she waits, she said the people she's been helping have offered to clean her home, make food, and support her.

Even before she thinks about herself, she's thinking about her family, friends, and the Ukrainian population in Tampa, first.

Before You Leave, Check This Out