FLORIDA — Hurricane Ian pummeled the center of the state with high winds and heavy rain as the Category 4 storm made landfall in the heavily-populated Lee County.
Floridians across nine counties called emergency services for rescue. “There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued,” said Sheriff Carmine Marceno on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. DeSantis said there have been multiple people helicoptered to safety from southwest Florida’s barrier islands, but it was too early to count fatalities.
At Florida’s Emergency Management Headquarters, Governor DeSantis spoke about the devastation: “We’ve never seen a flood event like this. We’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude – it’s basically a 500-year flood event.”
“There’s going to be a lot of work to do. Today is about identifying people who need help and who may still be in harm’s way. But also beginning the process of rebuilding – to have services restored, to have fuel and the things that people need in terms of communications,” the governor said.
As soon as the storm passed the southwest Florida area, teams from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Guard began rescue missions on the barrier islands. The causeway to Sanibel Island is unpassable, and engineers are working to check the structural soundness of area bridges.
“Those who are in need of life [medical] support, help is on the way,” the governor said. “We are receiving support from 26 different states, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a response so fast from neighboring states,” he added.
“Florida Urban Search and Rescue teams are on Captiva barrier islands and are conducting reconnaissance missions on Marco Island,” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s CFO. The teams on the scene will be paired with the Florida National Guard and medevac helicopters so that those that need medical assistance can be immediately flown to safety. “Each task force is made up of approximately 90 personnel, including physicians, structural engineers, search and rescue, and K-9s with handlers,” Patronis said in a statement.
DANGEROUS AND DIFFICULT SITUATION
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the Floridians in the path of Hurricane Ian as they continue to deal with devastating storm surge and flooding impacts that will leave a very dangerous and difficult situation in the storm’s aftermath for quite some time,” Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer Wes Brooks told the Florida Standard.
“The Statewide Office of Resilience is supporting ongoing state response operations led by DEM and stands ready to help lead Governor DeSantis’ long-term resilience strategy at the appropriate stage of the recovery,” Dr. Brooks added.
POWER GRID COLLAPSE
Currently, more than 2.6 million Floridians are without power. FPL’s President Eric Silagy said that damage to areas in the Lee and Charlotte county electrical grid is so extensive that the system will have to be completely rebuilt. “There are sections of our territory we will not be able to repair. We will have to rebuild,” Silagy said on a live stream. “I can’t stress the difference that makes. Rebuilding can take many days or weeks.”
Damage is not limited to coastal areas. Crews are working to restore power as soon as it is safe. A team of more than 19,000 from 30 states will deploy to rebuild the grid. Silagy said they ran drills to prepare for a storm the size of Hurricane Ian and have stockpiled thousands of miles of wire, transformers, electrical poles, breakers, and other essential equipment. “This is a huge undertaking. This is deploying an army. We’ve been preparing for such an event for quite some time,” he said.