It’s been more than 100 days since Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s southwestern coast, and authorities are still discovering human remains believed to be victims of the monstrous Category 4 storm.
The deadliest storm since Katrina, Hurricane Ian slammed into the Sunshine State on September 28. The churning tempest’s 155 mph winds created an 18-foot storm surge that plunged Fort Myers and the surrounding area deep underwater. Boats were thrown, homes were swept from foundations, and at least 148 Floridians lost their lives in the deluge.
This week, Florida officials added to the ever-rising death toll when the remains of an 82-year-old Fort Myers resident were discovered at the site of a sunken sailboat. According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the man chose to ride out the storm like so many others. He was declared missing when his boat disappeared in the storm.
For countless Southeasterners, but especially Florida residents, waiting out a hurricane is an annual occurrence. Even under evacuation orders, many opt to remain with their homes and belongings until the major storm passes. Due to Hurricane Ian’s size and unpredictability, however, the storm unleashed near-unprecedented destruction on its victims.
“Most of us have gotten back to a sense of the new normal,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a press conference. “For some, still missing their loved ones, every day since the storm has been difficult.”
Florida Death Toll Continues to Rise Months After Hurricane Ian
The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ian was nothing short of horrific. And, sadly, Hurricane Ian’s death toll only continues to rise all these months later.
Just this month, the body of Ilonka Knes was found in a dense patch of mangroves near her home. She was positively identified through the use of dental records. The body of her husband, Robert, was discovered immediately after the storm, in what was left of their home.
Following the news conference with Sheriff Marceno, dive crews searched the scene of a sunken sailboat, the last known location of James “Denny” Hurst, another Fort Myers resident.
Investigators discovered human remains in the boat near the Gulf of Mexico. Hurst was just one of the hundreds of victims reported missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Many have since been found alive.
The remains have yet to be officially identified. If they match Hurst, however, Lee County officials will have finally solved all the missing person cases opened as a result of the deadly storm.
As reported by Florida officials, Hurricane Ian marked the deadliest storm to strike Florida in at least 87 years. An analysis completed by Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission revealed more than half of the deaths were the result of drownings.
“As time moves forward, the scars left by Ian will remind us how far we’ve come when we work together. We will build back stronger than before, and it takes all of us,” said Marceno.