Ocala woman suffers home damage after Hurricane Ian

OCALA — Wanda Follins was doing her daily morning devotional in bed when she heard the cracking. She rolled out of bed to put her slippers on and see what the sound was when suddenly, she said it sounded like a bomb had gone off in the house.

“I have always been leery about that tree behind me,” Follins said. “When I knew the storm was coming through, I just could not sleep. I was worried about that tree.”

She’s lived in her home for 48 years and has never had damage from a storm. The tree on her backyard neighbor’s property has been there the entire time she has. She said she thinks the tree is a water oak and it’s been struck by lightning twice.

Her son Robert and niece Mikeriea were in the house when the tree came down. Mikeriea and Follins were both screaming.

“My dining room is damaged, my kitchen is damaged, one of the bedrooms, my laundry room, my fence is completely gone,” she said.

Damage to Follins’ roof is extensive after the tree came down.
(Allison Williams/WUFT News)

One tree branch crashed through a window in the kitchen, spewing shattered glass everywhere. Insulation from the ceiling fell from cracks and holes. It looks like fluffy white snow on her carpet.

The damage to her home isn’t the only thing Follins is dealing with. She hasn’t been able to sleep out of fear.

“I stubbed my toe on the door trying to get into the bathroom and she came running thinking something was coming down,” her son Robert said.

The events of this week have made her anxious.

“Every little sound I hear, I’m up looking,” she said.

The power didn’t go out right away. Electricians from the City of Ocala came over to inspect the damage and determined turning off her power would be the smartest thing to avoid a potential house fire.

Follins’ laundry room is left in shambles after two of its walls fell completely.
(Allison Williams/WUFT News)

Her brother knew someone in Williston with a crane, Mr. Marion. He was at her house within 45 minutes to get the tree out of her home. He wouldn’t even stay around long enough for her to say thank you and didn’t charge anything.

“That part really touches my heart,” Follins said, choking up.

She said she will never forget that thankless act and doesn’t know what she would’ve done with Mr. Marion and his crane.

Follins, 63, was born and raised in Ocala. She’s retired now but worked at Fessenden Elementary School for 37 years. She taught remedial reading and math for K-5 as well as took care of the discipline department. She said she’s already created an account with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has different people calling around to try and get her resources.

Follins’ mother passed away in 2020. She used to sleep in the room right under where the tree hit the house.

“The only thing I can think about is ‘God, I thank you that you took her.’ Because if she had been in that room, that debris would’ve fell right on top of her,” she said. “Even with all of this, there’s a silver lining.”

She joked this was God’s way of telling her to remodel.

Follins and her son, Robert, look around the trunk of the tree. (Allison Williams/WUFT News)

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