The 84-year-old stranded after Hurricane Ian gets help – from an unexpected source

If you need help, call a friend or family member. But what if you’ve lost your cell phone, your landline is down and your family lives across the country?

Shirley Affolter, 84, was in just such a situation – and the help she needed was urgent. Hurricane Ian swept through southwest Florida and the evacuation vehicle that had previously passed through their neighborhood missed them. She couldn’t leave her home alone because she needs a walker to get around.

She was stranded, incommunicado.

A terrible storm and situation for Shirley Affolter


Hurricane Ian swept through the area at over 150 miles per hour, killing over 100 people and displacing another 40,600. The Category 4 Atlantic hurricane devastated Cuba and the southeastern United States. South Carolina and Florida were particularly hard hit.

Across the country in Las Vegas, Affolter’s daughter, Christine Bomlitz, was worried. She hadn’t been able to reach her mother on Wednesday, and by Thursday, when the hurricane was over and the worst was over, she was beside herself. Still no contact with her mother.

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She didn’t know if her mother was okay or if she needed help. And since she was so far away, she didn’t know what to do.

So Bomlitz turned to the largest audience she knew for help: social media. Bomlitz posted everything she could think of: “My mom needs help! Can someone please check on her?”

A concerned Floridian enters

Meanwhile, back in Southwest Florida, Cheyenne Prevatt was also in hiding at home. She made it through the hurricane, and on Thursday she went outside and surveyed the damage to her home. Shingles from her roof had been blown off, and part of the ceiling had collapsed under the weight of a fallen palm tree. Prevatt’s home was destroyed and she had to be evacuated. But she read Bomlitz’s request and knew what she had to do: She couldn’t leave the area, she decided, without first helping Bomlitz’s mother.

Prevatt put her own evacuation plans on hold and made her way through chest-high flood waters to Affolter’s home on Thursday afternoon. She found the 84-year-old alive and well, if a little shocked.

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Affolter was surprised when this stranger came looking for her. She was even more surprised when Prevatt explained that Affolter’s daughter was looking for her and had launched a call on social media to find her mother. With Prevatt’s help, Affolter called her daughter to tell her she was safe.

The call was short because Affolter was having issues with her hearing aids, but Bomlitz got the reassurance she was so desperate for.

“I’m grateful for this stranger,” said Bomlitz, “a total stranger. The people are incredible.”

The Internet can empower communities and save lives


Now that she knew her mother was safe, Bomlitz turned her attention to the next priority: she needed someone with a boat to help her mother and others in the neighborhood safely evacuate her.

On Thursday night, their prayers were answered when a paddleboard came to Affolter’s home and landed them on dry ground.

Prevatt’s selfless act to help a stranger is a testament to the power of community – even when that community is online. Acts of kindness and sacrifice can change lives and inspire those around you to do the same. The echoes can be felt everywhere!


‘She Put Her Baby’s Life Above Her Own’ – Strangers reunite mother and lost child amid hurricane chaos The 84-year-old stranded after Hurricane Ian gets help – from an unexpected source

Sarah Y. Kim

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