As of Wednesday night, Florida officials in Fort Myers have implemented a 6 p.m. curfew following reports of looters ransacking local businesses as Hurricane Ian raged on. Officials are still weighing the aftermath of what’s been one of the strongest storms in American history, and looting has become an added concern in the area.
Hurricane Ian made landfall early Wednesday in the beachside city of Fort Myers. The Category 4 hurricane has already wreaked havoc in the region as officials review the infrastructure damage and tally the death toll. The state of Florida has already confirmed around 700 rescues of stranded citizens. Many were stuck in flooded areas, including in Fort Myers and Orlando.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Lee County officials shared that some individuals have stooped to looting local businesses. Therefore officials have activated the county-wide curfew that impacts more than 413,000 citizens. The looters defied authorities’ warnings that “looting and violence” in the wake of Hurricane Ian would “not be tolerated.”
On Wednesday night, Lee County Manager Roger Dejarlais spoke with reporters and announced the curfew. The curfew covered all cities in his jurisdiction, which includes Fort Myers. The area took the brunt of the hurricane’s damage after hitting land. Later, it moved northeast toward communities like Orlando and Jacksonville.
Dejarlais’ announcement included a warning to potential looters that the county had “a zero tolerance policy for looting and violence.” He added that the curfew would stay in place “until further notice.” Some exceptions are being made with the curfew. Those include work-related exceptions for healthcare workers, grocery shopping, and school.
“Our community has been, in some respects, decimated,” DesJarlais said during the late-night briefing on Wednesday.
Officials Detail Looting in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ian
During the Roger Dejarlais’ briefing, he shared details of homes flooded with water and debris scattered throughout the area. The county head shared that officials still aren’t sure of “the full extent of the damage” from Hurricane Ian.
Dejarlais added that officials are still searching for hundreds of missing people that are feared dead. Additionally, he announced the curfew after revealing that some individuals have taken part in looting and other crimes.
“Earlier today, when law enforcement was unable to respond because of weather conditions … there was a break-in on Cleveland Avenue,” DesJarlais explained. “There was looting and there was a group of people, don’t know a lot about it yet, who just had their way.”
In the press conference, the county head said that looters targeted a gas station. That prompted officials to take action as the city ordered the curfew. Following a conversation with Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, DesJarlais agreed to issue the curfew that evening.
Further, rescue officials are having difficulties reaching those in need due to the inclement weather from Hurricane Ian. Rescuers have not been able to get to certain affected areas to assess the damage and save those that are stranded.
“We don’t know yet. The storm is too strong,” DesJarlais said. “We don’t know yet, the extent of damage to our local infrastructure.”
As of now, DesJarlais shared that the curfew is in place “until further notice.” However, he also mentioned a potential 48-hour time limit on it. The curfew includes unincorporated Lee County and all of its cities. Yet there is one exception and that’s the town of Estero. DesJarlais said Estero officials could not be reached at this time.