Updated Sep 29, 2022 - Science

Florida begins recovery efforts as Ian moves through state

Resident walking through water in their home

A resident walks back home on a flooded street following Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida on Sept. 29. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recovery efforts are underway in Florida in the aftermath of devastating Hurricane Ian, which continued to move northeast as a tropical storm across the state Thursday on its way to the Carolinas.

Driving the news: More than 2.6 million in the state were without power Thursday after Ian brought strong winds, "life-threatening, catastrophic" flooding, and storm surges as high as 12 feet in some areas.

  • Orlando broke its 24-hour rainfall record with 12.49 inches of rain.
  • Collier County issued a precautionary water boil notice for certain areas until "satisfactory bacteriological results have been received."
  • Fort Myers Police Department warned residents in a Facebook post Thursday morning to stay off the roads and that a local curfew was in effect. "There are hazardous roadway obstructions and live powerlines down across the city."
  • "This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida's history," President Biden said at a briefing Thursday afternoon, adding that "we're hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life."
Boats are left stranded on the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida
Boats are left stranded on the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo: Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images

State of play: Families worried about loved ones in hard-hit areas like Fort Myers used social media for help with recovery efforts, Axios' Emma Way reports.

  • Naples resident Beth Booker didn’t hear from 78-year-old mom, Carole, for 24 hours. She tweeted photos she received from her mom before she lost contact, saying, “This is my family’s home of 24 years. We’ve survived Charley and Irma. We will survive Ian.” Carole was rescued Thursday afternoon, according to Booker’s Twitter.
  • Crowdsource Rescue, a non-profit grassroots rescue network, shows larges swatches of red on its rescue map. Each red marker represents someone waiting to be rescued on the west coast of Florida.

The big picture: "Since 1AM, search and rescue operations have been underway in response to #HurricaneIan," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Thursday.

  • More medical personnel are being surged to the affected areas as crews work with hospitals operating on generator power and two health care facilities were being evacuated, DeSantis said at a press briefing Thursday morning.
  • "Lee and Charlotte [counties] are basically off the grid at this point," DeSantis said of the widespread power outages, noting the counties would need rebuilt infrastructure. "There are crews that are on their way down right now."
  • Power for 700,000 customers has been restored so far, before the storm has left the state, Eric Silagy, CEO of Florida Power & Light, said during a Thursday afternoon press briefing alongside DeSantis.
  • As of 2 p.m. Thursday, more than 500 people had been rescued from Florida's Lee and Charlotte counties, the state's Division of Emergency Management announced via twitter.
  • "We've also had interruptions in communications as a result of the storm, particularly in southwest Florida. We have 100 portable cell towers being deployed into the area" that will be installed "once it's fully safe to do so," DeSantis said.
Area where homes once stood is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

DeSantis added that truckloads of food and water will soon be in the affected area to aid those affected by the storm.

  • 100 engineers, working in teams of two, are working on completing bridge inspections to assess damage and determine those that can be reopened safely.
  • Some school districts should be able to reopen on Friday or Monday, DeSantis said.

What he saying: "We're going to see a lot of images about the destruction that was done in southwest Florida...but people should just understand this storm is having broad impacts across the state," DeSantis said, adding that flooding could be expected "hundreds of miles from where this made landfall."

  • "The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that was done has been historic and this is just off initial assessments."
  • "We have had the two unconfirmed fatalities, in the sense that we don't know that they're linked to the storm," DeSantis said, adding that, "our assumption is it likely is" and that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would make the assessment and report back.

The death of a 72-year-old man was confirmed later Thursday by the Volusia County sheriff.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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