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Ivan leaves former city man temporarily homeless

September 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Steve Zaks bought a house on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in April to get away from bad winter weather, among other reasons.

On Sunday, the former Hagerstown resident and city Planning Commission member was hoping the house was still there after Hurricane Ivan ripped through his Pensacola Beach, Fla., neighborhood and left him seeking shelter hundreds of miles away.

Zaks, who moved to Pensacola Beach after living in the county for about a decade, said he left his home Wednesday and has been unable to get back to assess damage caused by Ivan's wrath. Zaks said he is trying to maintain realistic expectations about what awaits him at home.

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"I've gone from having a beautiful place to live to being homeless for an indeterminate amount of time," said Zaks, a Cumberland, Md., native.

In the Florida panhandle, at least eight people were killed, thousands of residents were evacuated and more than 300,000 residences were left without power as Ivan made landfall Thursday. Pensacola Beach was to the east of the storm's eye. Many tornadoes, high winds and flooding associated with Ivan were reported in that area.

Zaks, who rode out the storm with friends in nearby Milton, Fla., said he watched as Ivan pummeled a nearby golf course. Zaks, who appeared to have maintained a sense of humor about his situation, said the winds blew most of the sand out of their designated locations.

"A lot of the golfers said they were finally sand traps they could handle," he joked. "Of course, there were a lot of water hazards where there hadn't been."

Zaks said he is staying with friends in Fort Myers, Fla., nearly 600 miles from his home. He said one of the few ways he has been getting information on the damage has been checking a Web site, www.pensacolabeachliving.com, which is maintained by a nearby resident.

"I'm seeing holes on property where I know there were houses," he said. "It hits home."

Zaks said he decided to move to Florida because of the lack of winter weather and a lifestyle that allowed him to ride his bicycle to his consulting job most days. Despite the storm and the subsequent uncertainty, he does not regret the decision.

"I can't imagine living anywhere else," he said.

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