Hurricane Ian made landfall in southern Florida, leaving a path of damage, and creating severe flooding problems across the state. Sheriff departments, the Florida Highway Patrol, and other agencies spent Thursday assessing damage and rescuing individuals from high-water situations.
Lee County, the point of landfall, was severely damaged. In an afternoon press conference County Manager Roger Desjarlais and Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno tried to describe the damage the best they could.
“I can tell you that in all these years, I've not seen damage to Lee County from a storm like this,” says Desjarlais. “When you take a look at the barrier islands, particularly from the air, it's very clear to see where the storm came on shore and then just churned with 140-mile-an-hour winds over the islands for some period of time.”
He said the greatest amount of damage and decimation is at Fort Myers Beach and also reported extensive damage to the buildings on Sanibel and Pine Island. The bridges to Pine Island have all failed and he says there are five sections of roadway that have “fallen away” along Sanibel Causeway.”
“Obviously, we've been hit. We've been hit very hard,” says Marceno, who surveyed the damage by helicopter. “I can tell you from the heart, there are no words that can describe what we got to see.”
The sheriff said Fort Myers Beach was the most hard hit.
“It does look like a large tornado did go through it. Homes that would stand tall, buildings, are completely gone,” adds Marceno.
He said last night special operations officers and patrol deputies worked to make dozens of high-water rescues in waist-deep water.
Rescue and Response
As Ian crossed the state, moving to the northeast from where it made landfall, communities experienced heavy rainfall and flooding. In Orange County, the sheriff’s department deployed its High-Water Rescue Vehicle and members of the Emergency Response Team.
The sheriff’s office reported encountering waist-deep water as they drove through neighborhoods looking for people that needed to be evacuated. As they proceeded, the driver used the rescue vehicle’s loudspeaker to instruct those in need of rescue to step out their front door.
In Volusia County likewise, the sheriff’s department deployed a high-water rescue vehicle and Bearcats to reach people in areas that were inaccessible to standard emergency vehicles.
The sheriff’s office reported a 72-year-old Deltona man lost his life early Thursday morning in Volusia County after going outside during the hurricane to drain his pool. His wife reported he went outside, then disappeared. While searching for him, deputies found his flashlight, then spotted the victim unresponsive in a canal behind the home.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office earlier today, in a preliminary assessment, reported no major structural damages. However, major flooding was reported in parts of the county. Deputies used small boats, including an air boat, to rescue and evacuate residents from flooded areas.