PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As meteorologists continue to track Hurricane Ian, evacuees with northwest ties spoke with KOIN 6 news about their experience at ground zero of this storm.

With beautiful beaches and weather, South Florida has been dubbed an ideal location for people to retire. But a former Portland Timbers goalkeeper and a retired editor of the Columbian Newspaper say the last few days have been less scenic and more stressful.

For more than two decades, Lou Brancaccio served as the editor for The Columbian. Before he and his wife fully committed to moving to Punta Gorda, Fla. last year, he said that they had been splitting their time between Florida and Vancouver -– a decision he says the couple ironically made to avoid hurricane season.

While not everyone followed evacuation orders, Brancaccio and his wife joined the thousands who headed expert warnings, packed what they could and headed to safer ground.

“Here I am, really the first year of being a full-time resident, facing what is likely to become the worst hurricane to ever hit Florida,” he said.

Also among those weathering the storm is retired Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who tells us KOIN 6 that his Tampa home was placed under mandatory evacuation orders on Monday.

“We put some stuff up from the first floor, we took some stuff out of the garage. But if this thing was gonna hit where we live, we were just kind of under the impression that it wouldn’t really matter what we did. Just cause the storm was so big,” he said.

Attinella, who grew up in the Tampa area, says he had only recently moved back after announcing his retirement from the Timbers in January. Having weathered several storms in the past, he says this is the first time he has ever evacuated for a hurricane, but that he and his wife had some practice after their time here in Oregon.

“We had some experience with it in 2020 with the Oregon wildfires, my wife and I. So it was kinda one of those things where we had an idea of what to pack, and we actually kind of kept the same boxes from that situation, and just needed to throw in the boxes and just get to higher ground,” he said.

As the Category 4 hurricane brought in windspeeds at upwards of 150 miles per hour, more than 10 feet of storm surge and over a foot of rain. Hurricane Ian has left a path of destruction along Florida’s coast.

While both Attinella and Brancaccio feel lucky to have evacuated safely, the reality of returning home is beginning to set in.

“There’s already a million people without power. You look at some of these images in these towns that I’ve spent a lot of time in, that I’ve played soccer in, I’ve done a lot of things in, and they are going to be starting from scratch. So, it’s super scary,” Attinella said.

“My gut tells me we’re going to try to go back a little sooner than later because we just need to know. We need to know what happened and right now we’re in the dark,” Brancaccio said.