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FGCU student Bret Munson helps family during Hurricane Matthew

For residents of Southwest Florida, Hurricane Matthew was a spectacle viewed from the comfort of dry, electricity-powered homes. For FGCU sophomore Bret Munson, the storm was a harsh reality.

Munson spent last weekend driving up and down the east coast of the state in pouring rain, helping family members who were affected by the storm.

“I called my mom like ‘do you need anything?’ and she said no, but I’m like ‘whatever I’m coming home anyway,’” Munson said.

Munson grew up in Hobe Sound, Florida, an unincorporated part of Martin County near Jupiter. His house is one foot above sea-level near the Atlantic Ocean, and would have been devastated by the storm.

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“The storm was projected (to have a) seven-foot storm surge which would have destroyed our house,” Munson said. “My dad was upset, my mom was crying.”

On the morning of Thursday, Oct. 6, Munson traveled back home to help his parents and elderly neighbors secure belongings and prepare for the storm.

“I have a lot of older neighbors that can’t do stuff so I had to put up their shutters, put the plants in the house and get their stuff in the pool,” Munson said.

Munson then gave his parents the key to his North Lake dorm, letting them stay there for a night.

While his house in Hobe Sound was untouched, Munson’s parents spent Thursday night at his dorm just in case, because they thought the storm would be catastrophic, thanks to the multiple warnings made by Governor Rick Scott.

“The reason why my mom was so upset was my grandparents in South Carolina were calling like ‘you guys need to get out of there, the news is making it seem like Florida’s about to blow away,’” Munson said. “It was bad.”

Munson then hit the road and traveled to Daytona Beach to check up on his grandma.

“They couldn’t get a hotel room, so I was going to have them stay in my dorm,” Munson said. “Then my grandma called me to see how we were so I was like ‘I probably should go check on her.’”

While Matthew missed Southwest Florida completely, it touched down in Daytona and along the rest of the east coast of Florida, destroying houses, buildings and flooding whole cities.

The last stop on Munson’s trip was  St. Augustine on Saturday, Oct. 8, to help his cousin, whose house was flooded in the storm.

“To see a whole village completely underwater, streets that I’ve walked down, it was just weird,” Munson said.

His cousin had only lived in her house for two months before losing it to Hurricane Matthew.

“The water was all the way up to the doorknobs, it was crazy,” Munson said.

He waded through water in the house, collecting a few small belongings before having to leave.

Even though the storm didn’t directly affect Munson at FGCU, the experience he had driving through the storm to help his family will stay with him for the rest of his time on the west coast.

“It’s definitely gonna humble me a bit to think like ‘wow, that really could have destroyed my house,’” Munson said. “It’s different to think that within a matter of days you can lose everything you’ve had in your whole life.”

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