The scope of the damage left behind by Hurricane Ian continues to worsen. Nearly a week removed from its initial landfall, the death toll now exceeds 100 lives lost as recovery efforts continue.
At least 99 fatalities have been reported in Florida. Including 54 in Lee County alone. Additionally, four people from North Carolina reportedly died from the effects of the storm.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 430,000 customers remain without power across the state of Florida. Along with 1,100 in North Carolina and 2,500 in Georgia.
Emergency crews have made cursory inspections of about 45,000 properties since Ian blasted ashore last Wednesday. Flooding cascaded through seaside communities and washed away numerous buildings, Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s emergency management, said during a morning briefing.
“We’ve been to about every address,” Guthrie said. “We believe that we have searched everything very quickly. Now we are going back for a second look. I am not saying we are not going to find anybody else. We may find other people.”
The bulk of fatalities occurred in a battered Florida. 78 deaths were tallied by the sheriff’s offices in the adjoining coastal jurisdictions of Lee and Charlotte counties, which bore the brunt of the storm at landfall. 21 more deaths were reported by state officials from nine other counties.
“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Friday. “The amount of water that’s been rising and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event.”
Recovery Efforts Continue After Hurricane Ian’s Historic Destruction
Days after Ian carved a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas, the dangers persisted. And even worsened in some places. It was clear the road to recovery from this monster storm will be long and painful.
Officials are hoping to have power restored for most residents in Florida by this weekend. But some people in the worst hit areas could face “weeks or months” until power comes back according to Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy.
“We are repairing in most places outside of, right along the barrier islands and the beaches and the immediate coastline of Southwest Florida,” Silagy said Saturday night. Those areas are going to be rebuilding. And unfortunately for those who live there, we are looking at weeks or months [before restoration]. Frankly, many homes and businesses will not be able to accept power when that power is restored.”
Officials in Lee County, encompassing the hard-hit communities of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers and Cape Coral, faced scrutiny over whether they waited too long to order evacuations as the hurricane approached causing unnecessary deaths.
“I am confident in our county manager, in our leaders, our governor, all of us in law enforcement, that we got that message out at the right time,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said at a news briefing on Monday.