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Hidden River community's hope stands stronger than any storm

“My house is now the Myakka River,” Susan Kusia, a Sarasota County resident, said.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — In the Hidden River community of Sarasota County, a compromised levee caused flooding from the Myakka River.

Hurricane Ian has passed, but its impact reigns stronger. Fortunately, not stronger than the heart of one Sarasota County community.

Sometimes all may seem lost.

“My house is now the Myakka River,” Susan Kusia, a Sarasota County resident, said.

However, faith and hope still stand. 

“Our prayer was Lord protect the people wherever it lands,” said Rocky Walker, Old Myakka United Methodist Church Reverend.

With prayers answered in the Hidden River community, Hurricane Ian left more than expected. 

“Saturday morning at one o’clock in the morning, I heard the sound of the water coming through my bedroom door,” Kusia said. She lives near the Myakka River in Sarasota County. 

“I called my one neighbor. I said, ‘Wally, the water’s coming.’ Then, I called 911. It took an hour and a half to come get me. I had to climb up the golf cart, and I watched the water just rise and rise and rise,” Kusia said.

With help from family and friends, Kusia got to safety along with her horses and eight of her nine dogs. 

“There were snakes and things coming over my feet. I had no shoes,” Kusia described. “It’s the emotional part of going through.” 

'Going through' is just what the community is doing together.

“We have another church down the street. We’ve been in communication with them, and so we’re actually joining together in a joint worship service under the trees outside,” Reverend Rocky Walker said. Walker leads Old Myakka United Methodist Church.  

Hurricane Ian caused a large branch to fall on the church, knocking it slightly off its foundation but not its purpose. 

“We don’t sit back. We pick up the gauntlet and go with it,” Walker said.

The church served as a shelter for residents and a meeting place for hope. 

“What it says is we’re fulfilling our mission…That is to make the kingdom of heaven visible in this community. That’s what we’re about,” Walker said.

That mission has helped residents such as Kusia. 

“They’re going to feed us…He opened up the thrift store, so I could pick out a pair of boots,” Kusia said.

Although she has lost just about everything, she still has a lot she is grateful for, including her community. 

“I don’t care that I lost everything. It doesn’t matter…I have my life. Everybody is alive. I’m grateful for that,” Kusia added.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said if the compromised levee were to break, it could send 15 feet of flood waters into the neighboring community.

Fortunately, the water has been receding since Saturday.  

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