Days after Hurricane Ian swept through Florida, ravaging communities and turning streets into rivers, rescuers searching for survivors are reporting more deaths as recovery efforts continue.
Ian has killed at least 76 people after making landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm last week, destroying coastal towns, flooding homes, collapsing roofs, throwing boats into buildings and floating cars, officials confirmed. Four other people died in storm-related events as Ian moved into North Carolina.
Since last week, more than 1,600 people have been rescued from the path of Hurricane Ian, which was rescued in parts of southwest and central Florida. Ron DeSantis’ office said Sunday.
Now, with blue skies back, Floridians who took refuge while the hurricane ravaged have emerged to find unrecognizable communities and face the daunting task of rebuilding — many of them still without electricity or clean drinking water.
As of Sunday evening, more than 628,000 homes, businesses and other customers in Florida remained without power, according to PowerOutage.us. According to the Florida Department of Health, many people do not have clean running water, and there are more than 100 boiling water recommendations across the state.
In Naples, Hank DeWolf’s 4,000-pound dock was blown over an apartment complex by a powerful hurricane and landed in his neighbor’s yard. Water brought someone’s car into his own backyard. He doesn’t know who it belongs to or how to remove it.
As Naples crews comb through the wreckage to make sure no one is trapped, residents are going through an “emotional roller coaster” as they face the daunting task of cleaning up and restoring the city, Naples city manager Jay Budehshwar told CNN. Task. .
“People need to take care of their emotional and mental health because we really need to work together on that,” Boodheshwar admits.
Naples suffered a record storm surge when the hurricane sent rising waters into the city’s streets and ripped apart its infrastructure.
“The amount of water we received and the height of the surge affected a lot of infrastructure,” Boodheshwar explained. “So some of the transformers are fried. It’s not just rewired. Some things may need to be replaced.”
Similar scenarios are playing out in other communities. Hurricane Ian — expected to be the most expensive storm in Florida’s history — devastated communities from the state’s west coast to inland cities such as Orlando.
In some cases, emergency workers are battling the loss of their homes while searching for signs of life.
“Some people on Pine Island, they’ve lost everything, but they’re doing what they can,” the emergency doctor said. On Sunday, Ben Abo was preparing to join the ranks of first responders on a rescue mission near the destroyed islands of Sanibel and Pines.
And the flood isn’t over yet.
Severe flooding continued in some Seminole County communities, with families rescued from waist-high waters over the weekend.
Flooding continued to increase in the area around the St. Johns River days after the hurricane left. Seminole County emergency management officials told CNN affiliate WESH that 100 more homes were damaged by flooding in the past 24 hours in the Johns River, Lake Monroe and Lake Haney.
Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told CNN Sunday that FEMA alone cannot rebuild and provide assistance to all the communities affected by Hurricane Ian. Fugate added that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, can provide grants to communities impacted by hurricanes and other natural disasters to help people get back on their feet.
“It’s not just the Florida coast that’s been affected. We’ve been affected in Orlando all the way to the East Coast. Places like St. Louis have had devastating flooding in Augustine,” Fugate emphasized.
Hurricane Ian devastated parts of the Sanibel Causeway that connects Sanibel Island to the mainland, leaving residents stranded as their only connection became impassable.
Rescuers went door to door looking for people who might need to be evacuated.
About 400 people were evacuated from Sanibel Island over the weekend, city manager Dana Souza reported Sunday night, adding that authorities would begin to turn their attention to providing medical care to those who chose to stay on the island rather than evacuating.
Abo told CNN he “would not be surprised” if the death toll increased significantly as rescue and recovery efforts on Sanibel Island continued.
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Major General Brendan McPherson made a scathing assessment of the damage to Sanibel Island.
“The area will be unavailable for some time,” McPherson said. “It’s been hit hard, there’s no water, no basic infrastructure.”
Amy Lynn was at her friend’s Sanibel Island home when Ian struck, forcing her to hide in a closet with her seven dogs, closing the door while praying as the hurricane whizzed by outside.
The video showed that when she came out, the house was badly damaged and the walls were blown up.
“I prayed for 6 hours and finally calmed down and maybe it was time for me to leave. No. God is good. We survived,” Lynn wrote on Facebook. “We’ve lost everything. My car is gone. I haven’t seen my home in Sanibel and I’ve been told it’s been destroyed.”
Lynn said she was thankful she was still alive, but wrote: “It’s not just devastating. The heart of the swfl coast has changed forever.”
Lee County in southwest Florida, which includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, has reported numerous Ian-related deaths — 42 people have died.
Lee County officials have been facing criticism for why the first mandatory evacuation wasn’t ordered until a day before Ian made landfall, even though an emergency plan suggested it should have happened sooner.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials in Lee County acted appropriately when they issued the first mandatory evacuations Tuesday, less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall in the state and a day after several neighboring counties Order issued.
Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane also defended the timing of the order, calling reports of possible delays in issuing mandatory evacuations “inaccurate.”
“Once we saw the model shift northeast, we did everything we could to encourage people” to evacuate, Ruane said Sunday.
Ruane added that people became “complacent” and many did not evacuate to shelters.
“I think the most important thing most people need to know is that we opened 15 shelters. During Irma, we had 60,000 people in the shelters. Now there are 4,000 people in the shelters,” Ruane said.
In addition to the 42 deaths in Lee County, Hurricane Ian killed 12 in Charlotte County, 8 in Collier County, 5 in Volusia County, 3 in Sarasota County, and 2 in Manatee County The deaths, one each in Polk, Lake, Hendry and Hillsboro counties, officials said.
About 65% of Florida’s storm power outages had been restored as of early Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us.
But some residents and businesses in storm-damaged counties could take “weeks or months” to return to normal due to the structural damage caused by the hurricane, said Eric Silagi, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light. powered by.
Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Ryan Lamb told CNN’s Jim Acosta that in Cape Coral, southwest of Fort Myers, 98 percent of the city’s electrical structures were “destroyed” and needed to be completely rebuilt .
Florida is also working with Elon Musk and Starlink satellites to help restore communications in the state, according to DeSantis. “They’re positioning these Starlink satellites to provide good coverage in southwest Florida and other affected areas,” DeSantis said.