MATLACHA, Fla. – Everything changed in a matter of hours for Kyle Sherman on Sept. 28.
Up to that day, he had a thriving neighborhood bar and grill in Matlacha, Florida, called the Hooked Island Grill. It supported his wife and three kids.
Six hours of Hurricane Ian's fury, which included a one-story high storm surge and 150-mph winds, not only took away his restaurant but his neighbors, the roads and the bridges.
"If you don't laugh, you'll cry, or at least I will," Sherman wrote in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page. "We are not sure what the future holds for us or for the town of Matlacha but please know that we appreciate every one of you and hope that our family and neighbors had better luck than we did."
Sherman and his family sheltered at his parents' home on the mainland as Ian battered southwest Florida. He relied on social media and first-responder reports on the status of Hooked Island Grill. Initially, he was positive about the future, with reports the place was still standing. Reality set in when engineers set up temporary bridges to reconnect the area to Pine Island and Cape Coral. That was when he was able to see the restaurant for himself.
"The immediate reports, or whatever people said, that it was still standing, which I guess were true, but obviously, we had no idea the devastation that took place," Sherman told FOX Weather on Monday.
Sherman talked about what was left after the waves and wind tore apart part of the building.
"We have a patio here that just got completely blown away," he said as he gestured toward the heavily damaged building. "Really, Ian just came through and took everything apart. It took the pavement and separated it from the building and pushed the building out a little bit more to the water to where it feels like it's about to fall in the water."
Matlacha only sits about a foot above sea level, so all the buildings and homes are built on stilts.
Sherman said the building where his restaurant was located was built in 1946. He said it's no longer sitting on its stilts, and the parking lot collapsed. Sherman said the grill was uninsured.
"We're definitely thankful, you know, thankful that we just lost the restaurant," Sherman said, and he added that many of his employees living on Pine Island lost everything.
Sherman said he and his business partner have been talking to the landlord about rebuilding the business that they opened in December 2021.
A FEMA inspector was due to arrive Monday, Sherman said. He said a general contractor will have to weigh in on whether the building will need to be razed or can be salvaged.
"Matlacha really opened its arms up to us," Sherman said. "It wouldn't be right for us to not come back and build, but in the meantime, I think we want to build a little bit more inland and, you know, get everything going for our employees and really try to get them back to work. Just try to restore some normalcy in Southwest Florida."
Hooked Island Grill was just one of the thousands of buildings damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Ian across several states.
More than 100 people were killed by the storm.