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Montana woman recounts hurricane experiences living in Florida

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Posted at 6:04 PM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-29 10:46:13-04

BILLINGS — In Montana, you won't find many people who have experienced a hurricane. For those who have, it's an experience they won't forget.

D.C Alhert lived in Florida for most of her life before relocating to Ennis a little over three years ago. She knows hurricanes are part of the deal when you live in the South.

"I basically grew up in Florida and spent my whole life there and have experienced more hurricanes than I can count," Ahlert said.

Ahlert now calls herself a Montanan but for most of her life, she lived in Florida and knows firsthand the devastation a hurricane can cause.

"Every year you get your hurricane kit ready, and you hunker down. So, you make sure you have all the water and the flashlights and the tarps. Not the last year I was there, but the year before, we had four hurricanes and one of those years, I lost my fence, and I lost my roof," added Ahlert.

Hurricanes can take a personal toll on families, but Ahlert dealt with the storms on an even bigger level while she was working for Disney. She experienced helping stranded visitors.

"We had to make sure the guests are fed because if they’re still at the hotel, they still need services, they still need to be entertained, there’s still so many children that are there that are impacted by this," Ahlert said.

Like many families in Florida, Ahlert knows how difficult it can be deciding whether to evacuate or stay. She remembers a time she chose to stay put with her dogs and her mom and ended up regretting it.

"We slept on the couches in the living room, and it sounded like aliens were on top of the roof. It was scary hearing it, thinking back now that if I ever experienced that type of hurricane, I probably would’ve sought shelter because that was the year I lost my roof, I lost my fence," Ahlert added.

She also knows how long it can take to recover, once the storm is gone.

"I remember one time it took about two weeks to get the power back on and gas stations they couldn’t get, because of the infrastructure, they could not get the gas there. It’s impactful and you can’t take showers and brushing your teeth for two weeks with bottled water. And then the flooding, your whole back yard could be flooded, and you have to worry about mosquitos and snakes and all the other things that come along with it," Ahlert said.

But what Ahlert remembers most from her time in Florida, isn’t what her family didn’t have but what they received: Communities coming together in the time of tragedy and helping one another.

"It’s amazing how people open up their arms and their homes and say hey, I have extra this, I have extra that, I wasn’t hit bad, what can I donate or bring to the shelter? I had things left over, luckily, I had power or those things, so you offer it to friends and family and say hey come over, stay with us, take a shower here, its amazing how much community comes in when things like this happen," said Ahlert.