Numerous individuals are still stuck in their flooded houses, and two million people are without power as Hurricane Ian plows across Florida, leaving a devastating path of damage in its wake.
As they witnessed the flooding water breach their doors and start dangerously rising higher and higher, helpless Floridians begged for relief by frantically calling their family members and the police.
Streets were transformed into rivers, and the storm surge inundated the emergency department on the lower level of the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte while violent winds tore a portion of the roof off the hospital’s critical care units on the fourth floor.
According to Dr. Birgit Bodine, who had camped out at the hospital to assist patients, water flowed in from above into the ICU, causing staff to move the hospital’s sickest patients – some of whom were on ventilators – to other floors.
As a Category 4 hurricane with continuous winds of 150 mph and, in some spots, an 18-foot wall of water, the powerful hurricane plowed onshore on Wednesday afternoon with devastating fury. Billions are expected to be spent on the clean-up.
One of the fiercest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the US, it lost most of its strength after sunset and was reduced to a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 90 mph. It is traveling at 10 mph in the direction of the Atlantic and is anticipated to surface later today.
However, the slowly moving cyclone is still dumping heavy rains as it makes its way inland, keeping a large number of people—possibly thousands—in their flooded houses.
The picturesque southwest coast of Florida, which was filled with sandy beaches, coastal communities, and mobile home parks, was quickly turned into a catastrophe area that was overwhelmed with saltwater.
On local TV and social media, footage of the storm’s ferocity showed floodwater almost reaching roofs in some areas, taking away vehicles and the remains of houses, and almost severing palm palms.
People stuck in flooded houses have called fire crews and police officers in droves, while others have posted on social media asking for rescue for themselves or loved ones after choosing to stay home during the storm instead of following evacuation instructions.
However, the intensity of the winds and water has prevented rescue teams from getting to them so far, according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Social media video shows debris-filled water overflowing the first floor of houses, causing occupants to flee to higher ground.
A writer from Pittsburgh named Brittany Hailer alerted rescuers about her mother in North Fort Myers, whose house was engulfed in 5 feet of water.
We do not know when the water will recede. Their automobiles are wrecked, so we have no idea how they will get away, Hailer added. “Her only escape is via boat,” was said.
A hurricane warning was still in place from Sebastian Inlet to the boundary between Flagler and Volusia counties, which was 31 miles south of Fort Myers and north of Bonita Beach.
Between Bonita Beach and Chokoloskee, the hurricane warning was canceled by the center. On the southwest edge of the state, from Chokoloskee to Flamingo, a tropical storm warning was also canceled.
According to Governor Ron DeSantis, “this storm is doing a number on the state of Florida.” He requested that President Joe Biden authorize a large federal disaster designation that would provide extensive U.S. emergency relief to the whole state.
By late Wednesday, there had been no reports of Ian-related fatalities in the US. But on Wednesday, a boat carrying Cuban refugees capsized in rough seas east of Key West.
According to authorities, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a search and rescue operation for 23 passengers and was able to locate three survivors two miles south of the Florida Keys.
The U.S. Border Patrol said that four more Cubans swam to Stock Island, which is located just east of Key West. The hunt for the potential 20 remaining migrants was carried out by air crews.
Two people died when the hurricane struck Cuba earlier, and the nation’s electrical system was destroyed.
Near Cayo Costa, a barrier island west of densely populated Fort Myers, the hurricane’s eye made impact. Water drained from Tampa Bay as it drew near.
According to the website PowerOutage.us, more than 2 million Florida homes and businesses were left without power. Three counties’ worth of homes and businesses were all without electricity.
Except for the few buildings with generators, the town of Punta Gorda, which is located north of Fort Myers, was almost completely in the dark after the storm’s loss of electricity.
For “life-saving considerations,” Charlotte County Sheriff Bull Prummell ordered a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Violators might be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
Prummell said, “I am implementing this curfew as a method of safeguarding the people and property of Charlotte County.”
The storm was expected to pass close to Daytona Beach on Friday before diverting over the Atlantic and coming back onshore in South Carolina.
In advance, the governors of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia all proclaimed states of emergency. As a tropical cyclone, Ian was expected to move toward those states, perhaps delivering additional devastating rains throughout the weekend.
While this was going on, around 10 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, high winds and horizontal rains were still pelting Venice, Florida, a community of roughly 25,000 people located 32 miles to the northwest of where Ian initially landed at the barrier island of Cayo Costa seven hours earlier.
Larger buildings were relatively unharmed, while smaller residential neighborhoods off of Highway 41, a crucial thoroughfare through the region, were left in ruins.
Roofs were torn off of some houses, and water was flowing into communities from what seemed like all directions. Roadways were covered with fallen trees and electrical cables to the extent that it was impossible to see the tarmac.
In front of a Winn Dixie grocery store, a large open space transformed into a lake with white-cap waters that reached the trunks of some of the parked automobiles. Larger portions of the region were without power, making communications difficult in several places.
After pummeling Cuba on Tuesday and depriving the island country of electricity for hours, Ian surged into the southeast Gulf of Mexico and attained its peak wind gusts of 155 mph, just short of a Category 5 classification, right before making landfall in Florida on Wednesday.
According to DeSantis, Ian produced up to 12-foot storm surges in certain locations, which are waves of saltwater surging ashore propelled by the wind. Intense thunderstorms and potential for tornadoes were also warned of by forecasters.
Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, said that this storm will be remembered for many years to come.
In contrast, Hurricane Ida last year packed sustained winds of 150 mph when it made landfall in Louisiana, while Hurricane Michael in 2018 brought persistent winds of 155 mph to the Florida panhandle.
Authorities issued a warning to locals that it was too late for everyone who had not yet evacuated to do so safely as Ian pounded the shoreline before it ultimately smashed ashore. More than 2.5 million people had been ordered to leave earlier this week.
Many people living in mobile homes sought sanctuary in nearby schools and other buildings that had been transformed into shelters for the homeless. The vast majority of the area’s assisted-living institutions were also evacuated.