Live updates: Fort Myers Beach is 'like a war zone'




This is a live news blog with information about the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers and Lee County.

Our reporters and photographers are spread out across Southwest Florida covering our communities and providing the latest developments on the recovery.

WHERE YOU CAN GET MEDIAL CARE IN LEE AND COLLIER

HURRICANE IAN: HOW TO HELP | RELIEF EFFORTS | HUMANITARIAN AID

8:30 p.m. | Multi-purpose, multi-agency disaster recovery center opening soon

At a Sanibel City Council meeting Monday night, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R., Naples, announced a multi-purpose, multi-agency disaster recovery center opening "in a couple of days" It will be at Lakes Regional Library at Gladiolus Drive and Bass Road in south Fort Myers to help with FEMA applications, small business loans, housing, insurance claims and more, he said.

- Amy Williams, The News-Press

7:06 p.m. | Property owners can take private boats to private docks on Sanibel

Starting Wednesday, documented property and business owners can take private boats to private docks on Sanibel between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. No one can stay overnight; that 12-hour window is the only time people can be on the island and they must leave at 7 p.m.

- Amy Williams, The News-Press

6:36 p.m. l Cape Coral musician soothes residents by performing

Times are hard in Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian. But Bob Tabarrini has something that might make things a little better - if only for an hour or so.

Music. He doesn't need a stage or a venue. Instead, he performed Monday in a parking lot near a line for free hot food at Cape Coral's Torched Bar and Grill.

"My name's Bob," Tabarrini told the hungry crowd as he sang and strummed from the tailgate of his SUV. "I'm here to play some tunes."

READ THE FULL STORY

5:50 p.m. | Fort Myers Beach is 'like a war zone'

As Urban Search and Rescue teams surveyed the RV parks on San Carlos Island on Monday afternoon, the residents were left to deal with the wreckage of their homes and their lives a week after Hurricane Ian ravaged their community.

"It's just the most horrible thing in the whole world really," said Cheryl Wiese.

Wiese drove down from Ohio to the home where she spends eight months of the year for the past 16 years and couldn't believe what happened to what she described as her "happy place."

"It's like a warzone," she said. "I couldn't believe any of it."

Wiese and others were left to sort through their belongings - if they were even still there. She described the "horrible" stench of the shrimp boats piled up in their neighborhood.

Emotions ran high as residents were forced to literally pick up the pieces with little hope of a return to normalcy.

Patty Benson stayed through the storm - not far from her home. It was a fraught experience as she described seeing the water level rise where she was staying as someone who cannot swim.

"It was rough," she said. "It scared the living hell out of us."

Neighbor after neighbor had tales of traumatic experiences and memories lost in the wreckage. Looking forward can seem futile.

"There's no possible way in the whole world that I can recover, and everything I worked for my whole life is gone," Wiese said through tears.

The sudden strike of the storm seemed to catch everyone off guard.

"You know none of us was expecting this, and now we just got to get through it," Benson said. "We got to survive."

5:43 p.m. | Life without power in Cape Coral

Throughout the city of Cape Coral, residents are experiencing life without power.

At a typical house on Hancock Bridge Parkway, a wheelbarrow burns, filled with ash and burnt wood, pots and pans closely located to it.

This is the home of Anna Hennessey, who has been living for six days without electricity.

"We're going to end up cooking that way because this (tank) is running out of propane, and I don't even know where to get more," Hennessey said.

She used to live in Okinawa, Japan, and experienced several tropical storms and hurricanes.

"Nothing like this at all," Hennessey said. "Like, we were on a small island and you would think that it would have been under, but we never were without power, maybe a couple hours. This is the worst I've ever seen it."

4:58 p.m. | Mobile hospital set up at Edison Mall in Fort Myers

A mobile field hospital with 100 beds and an emergency department located at the Edison Mall in the former Sears building is open for services. It will serve the general public, providing diagnosis and treatment of a variety of issues routinely seen at traditional hospitals. Residents should continue to call 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

A mobile health clinic is set up at Estero Recreation Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero.  The clinic is currently open 24 hours a day providing urgent care services. Additional locations are expected to open in the coming days, please visit www.LeeGov.com/Storm for updates.

4:27 p.m. | Good news! Major progress on building road to Matlacha

Matlacha's road is on its way back. As The News-Press / Naples Daily News staff floated by on a boat around 4 pm Monday, they could see front loaders smoothing out the sand that had been dumped where Hurricane Ian carved a channel through Matlacha and smashed Bert's and the Driftwood Inn.

Earlier in the day, it was evident that workers had widened the channel to at least a quarter-acre wide. Gone was the makeshift bridge Matlacha residents had thrown together. Now, the sand is level with the preexisting road and construction equipment drove busily back and forth on it.

Full story and photos to come.

3:53 p.m. | Lee Schools: Still no clarity on when classes will resume

It's still unclear when Lee County Schools will reopen as professional inspections of all schools in the district began Monday, according to superintendent Christopher Bernier.

"We know how important the schools are to our families and to our workplace and to our economy," Bernier said. "We are going to do everything humanly possible to open as quickly but as safely as possible."

While an initial assessment of Lee County Schools has been completed, a professional assessment by certified building inspectors began Monday, according to Bernier.

"Those are the people who have the expertise to make determinations as to whether school buildings can be opened and re-inhabited by our young people," Bernier said. "We're focused on ensuring the safety of our students but being sensitive to the community's needs and determining what an effective reopening process would look like."

READ THE FULL STORY

3:47 p.m. | Lee Health continues evacuations

Lee Health officials said Monday they are still evacuating patients from HealthPark Medical Center and Gulf Coast Medical Center with hopes it can be halted soon.

Roughly 400 patients have been transferred to other hospitals and all 149 children at Golisano Children's Hospital were evacuated.

Of that total, 67 are premature babies, according to Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and chief executive officer.

Since that first evacuation, another half a dozen premature babies were delivered, he said.

The hospital evacuations became necessary because of water pressure problems at the two campuses which have since been resolved.

3:18 p.m. | Cape Coral landmark Big John damaged by Ian

Cape Coral
Cape Coral's popular Big John statue was damaged during Hurricane Ian.  

Cape Coral's iconic Big John statue was damaged during Hurricane Ian.

But don't worry, Cape Coral: The iconic downtown Cape statue will be repaired.

"Big John will be restored," promises Elmer Tabor, the realtor who owns the plaza that bears Big John's name.  "No doubt."

READ THE FULL STORY

3:01 p.m. | State: Stay away from water, submerged powerlines

State officials are telling the public to stay away from water and submerged powerlines and other equipment.

"The public utilities and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are currently performing assessments to locate and address any damage or lack of functionality," said Tammy Soliz, with the Florida Department of Health in Lee County. "Due to the large scale of flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Ian, it is best to treat all flood waters as contaminated which may be health hazards."

2:10 p.m. | Water and electricity update from state EOC

From the state EOC briefing in Tallahassee today: 

Florida officials said they hope to have water and electricity restored by Sunday to all the homes, businesses, schools and hospitals in Southwest Florida that are structurally sound enough to receive it.

"We've laid out a very good plan," Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Monday.

Fewer than 600,000 customers were without power Monday morning, records show. But hard-hit Lee County remained about 60% out.

Schools were reopened Monday in 46 of the 59 Florida counties that had closed them because of Hurricane Ian, with all but counties in Southwest Florida expected to be fully back by the end of the week, said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz.

Lee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Sarasota and Hardee counties have "the most to deal with," Diaz said. In some cases, local flooding, building damage and a lack of power is keeping students away.

The confirmed death toll from Hurricane Ian was 58 in Florida, based on reports from county medical examiners, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass.

The final toll is expected to far exceed that.

"You have drownings, you have some that were unable to get medical services, maybe (died) from a heart attack," Glass said.

State officials said 20,660 households completed shelter-in-place surveys as the storm approached. Of those, 10,416 have since reported themselves safe, but Jamie Grant, the state's chief information officer said limited cell phone and internet service is certainly keeping many from reporting.

Officials said they were not expecting the death toll to further mount dramatically.

"We're somewhat confident we've had people check every address," Guthrie said about ongoing follow-ups to check on the households that were still unresponsive.

1:37 p.m. update: How to donate to Shuckers relief fund

This is what is left of Shuckers and the Cottage Bar on Fort Myers Beach.
This is what is left of Shuckers and the Cottage Bar on Fort Myers Beach.  

HOW TO DONATE

1:04 p.m. Nikki Fried participates in flyover of damaged areas

StormWrappers puts a tarp on the roof of Southwest Baptist Church on McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers on Monday, Oct.
StormWrappers puts a tarp on the roof of Southwest Baptist Church on McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers on Monday, Oct.  

 12:02 p.m.|Imperial River receding

It appears the Imperial River has stopped rising and will hopefully drain soon as the river is within inches of the lowest homes there.

Homes along the Imperial were flooded by storm surge when Hurricane Ian hit.

Days later rain that had fallen over the 60,000 acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed to the northeast drained mostly toward Bonita Springs.

"It came up during the storm, then dropped and then ended up going to 12.3 feet," said Phil Flood, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District. "And water starts to go into people's houses at 12.5."

Flood said the situation would have been even worse has rain continued to fall in the wake of Ian.

"But right now the river looks level," Flood said. "And we hope it will start to recede."

Flood said the district is working with the City of Bonita Springs and Lee County to remove debris from the river in order to improve drainage

11:50 a.m. | FPL paints promising picture for power restoration

Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy offered a promising outlook for customers who remain without power in Lee and Collier counties.

Silagy provided a Monday morning update from the Imperial Club, close to Vedado Way Beach in Naples, nearly 96 hours after Hurricane Ian slammed into Southwest Florida.

FPL has managed to restore power to 1.8 million customers. Approximately 83 percent of  the company's customers that were impacted, now have power. There are several hundred thousand people who remain without power, as the one-week mark since Ian made landfall inches closer.

The reality of looting is setting in after Hurricane Ian.
The reality of looting is setting in after Hurricane Ian.  

11:16 a.m. | Warning from Dept. of Health

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is cautioning Southwest Floridians when it comes to coming into contact with potentially contaminated stormwater.

More than a foot of rain fell in some locations of the county, and more than 8 foot of storm surge slammed into some areas.

Sewage systems and pump lifts failed during Hurricane Irma (2017).

"Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that usually lives in warm, brackish sea water," a DOH email reads. "These bacteria typically grow faster during warmer months. Sewage spills in coastal waters, like those caused by Hurricane Ian, may increase bacteria levels.

"People with open wounds, cuts, or scratches can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with sea water or brackish water," the email continues. "Vibrio vulnificus has the potential to cause severe illness or death."

DOH recommends that people try not to come into contact stormwater and brackish water.

If you do, immediately clean and monitor wounds and cuts. Seek medical attention if the wound develops redness or if there other signs of infection.

A section of pavement from Pine Island Road along Matlacha appears gone Sunday October 02, 2022, after the impact of Hurricane Ian.
A section of pavement from Pine Island Road along Matlacha appears gone Sunday October 02, 2022, after the impact of Hurricane Ian.  

11:09 a.m. | Portable cell site delivered to Pine Island via helicopter

AT&T's network continues to perform extremely well following Hurricane Ian, and crews have been working in the hardest hit storm areas to make repairs and keep customers, their families and first responders connected.

Working with local and government agencies, FirstNet loaded a portable cell site onto a helicopter help with communications on Pine Island, where residents were stranded. This CRD (compact rapid deployable) is providing wireless service for first responders and Wi-Fi for the residents. Within minutes of setting up, residents were able to call family to let them know they were safe.

AT & T has brought a portable cell site to Pine Island by helicopter on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
AT & T has brought a portable cell site to Pine Island by helicopter on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.  

10:54 a.m. | Banking news

To assist those impacted by Hurricane Ian, Truist has deployed a Disaster Recovery Mobile Branch in the North Fort Myers area with 24/7 accessible ATMs to dispense much-needed cash.

The mobile branch consists of two ATMs available to Truist customers as well as non-Truist customers.

Open 24 hours

9:50 a.m. | LCEC's estimated times for power restoration

Following are LCEC estimated times of restoration for most affected areas. The timeframes provided are based on worst-case scenarios, and it is possible power will be restored sooner to the locations able to receive power:

  • Lee County (excluding Pine Island and Sanibel / Captiva Islands) - estimated to be 95 percent restored by end of day Saturday, October 8.

  • Pine Island estimated restoration time will be determined once access to the island is established.

  • Sanibel and Captiva Islands estimated restoration time will be determined once access to the island is established.

  • Collier County (excluding Marco Island) - estimated to be 95 percent restored by end of day Saturday, October 8.

  • Marco Island is currently 40 percent restored with specific areas still being assessed for restoration alternatives. It is estimated to be 95 percent restored by end of day Tuesday, October 4.

9:34 a.m. | Here is info on community food assistance in SWFL

SEE FACEBOOK POST HERE

Food assistance for Hurricane Ian.
Food assistance for Hurricane Ian.  

9:08 a.m. | Here's the latest on curfews in Lee County

READ FULL STORY HERE

Aerial footage of damaged boats in Fort Myers after Hurricane Ian.
Aerial footage of damaged boats in Fort Myers after Hurricane Ian.  

8:34 a.m. | Stunning video of flooding in downtown Fort Myers during Ian

SEE THE VIDEO HERE

7:30 a.m. | Sanibel Lighthouse standing, but damaged

It was one of the first of what became a swarm of Hurricane Ian rumors: The Sanibel Lighthouse has toppled.

Turns out, it was a half-truth: The house part is gone, but the light remains. Hurricane Ian barged onto the island a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds and an 8-to-15-foot storm surge Wednesday.

READ THE FULL STORY

6:58 a.m. | LCEC power restoration update

Shrimping boat workers Javier Allan Lopez, left, 34, and Oriel Martinez Alvarado, 51, sit in the shade of one of the shrimp boats that some of their fellow workers sought shelter in during Hurricane Ian on Wednesday afternoon near Trico Shrimp Company in Fort Myers, FL.
Shrimping boat workers Javier Allan Lopez, left, 34, and Oriel Martinez Alvarado, 51, sit in the shade of one of the shrimp boats that some of their fellow workers sought shelter in during Hurricane Ian on Wednesday afternoon near Trico Shrimp Company in Fort Myers, FL.  

"LCEC will add additional crews toward efforts to restore electric service in devastated SWFL communities," according to a news release.

"The LCEC plan is to restore members' power as quickly as possible given the conditions of our service territory. We continue to work closely with Governor DeSantis and appreciate the resources being devoted to this monumental effort."

Current restoration numbers are as follows:

LCEC power restoration update for Monday, Oct.
LCEC power restoration update for Monday, Oct.  

Ian coverage from Sept. 28-Oct. 3: From rescues to damages, The News-Press is providing in-depth coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

More: How to help: Where to donate, volunteer to assist victims in Fort Myers area in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Resources for Fort Myers, Lee County

Flooded car?: Here's what to do (and what NOT to do)

Craving a hot meal?: Lee County restaurants open in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita, Estero

Mobile phones: Mobile phone carriers offer free talk, text and data to residents impacted by Hurricane Ian

SMS alerts: Sign up to a special texting group for updates on Hurricane Ian and its aftermath

Supplies: What's open and where to get what you need after Hurricane Ian

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Hurricane Ian live updates: Latest from Fort Myers, Lee County

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