Water and power could be restored by Sunday to all homes, businesses, schools and hospitals in Southwest Florida that are structurally sound after the devastation of Hurricane Ian, authorities said Monday.
“We’ve come up with a really good plan,” said Kevin Guthrie, director of emergency management in Florida.
Nearly 600,000 homes and businesses remained in darkness Monday morning, five days after the storm tore through the state’s Gulf Coast. About 60% of hard-hit Lee County, where Ian first landed in the United States, was left helpless.
Schools in 13 counties remained closed, but all Southwest Florida counties are expected to be fully back by the end of the week, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said. Lee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Sarasota and Hardee counties have “the most to deal with,” Diaz said.
Ian’s death toll has climbed to at least 68 people, according to the Associated Press: 61 confirmed deaths in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba, where Ian made his first landing on Tuesday. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass said Monday there were at least 58 confirmed deaths in the state.
BEFORE AND AFTER:A look back at the damage caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida
IAN, FIONA SHATTERED HOPE FOR A CALM HURRICANE SEASON:And after?
AFTER HURRICANE IAN CAME THE FLOODS:These people mobilized to rescue the inhabitants, the horses, the cows
Virginia faces historic flooding
Five days after Hurricane Ian first passed through the United States in Florida, the relentless storm on Monday threatened to unleash some of the worst flooding in more than a decade – nearly 1,000 miles away in Virginia.
After moving through Florida and then pounding the Carolinas, the weakened but still dangerous storm showered Virginia with rain on Monday, and officials warned of potentially severe flooding by Tuesday. The remnants of the once Category 4 hurricane moved seaward and merged with a low-pressure system to form a northeasterly direction expected to draw more water into an already flooded Chesapeake Bay.
Cody Poche, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the result could be the largest tidal flood in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area in the past 10 to 15 years.
Norfolk and Virginia Beach declared states of emergency, and Virginia Beach warned residents to “make necessary preparations now if an evacuation becomes necessary.” The island town of Chincoteague issued a voluntary evacuation order for its 3,000 residents and was opening a shelter at a local high school.
Florida emergency chief defends controversial evacuation decision
Lee County’s decision not to order an evacuation until Tuesday morning — a day after neighboring counties had already warned low-lying area residents to leave — was made solely by county officials, the superintendent said Monday. of Florida Emergency Management, Kevin Guthrie. The decision to wait overnight to assess Hurricane Ian’s path apparently clashed with the county’s own planning protocols to order residents out even when a minimal risk of severe storm surge might accompany a approaching storm. But Guthrie supported local officials.
“They made the best decision based on the information at the time,” Guthrie said during a Monday briefing in Tallahassee. “When making disaster decisions, emergency management directors don’t have a crystal ball.”
Gas tax relief a welcome break for Floridians
Gas tax relief in Florida came at the right time this weekend as the state begins its long road to recovery from Hurricane Ian. The Florida Motor Fuel Tax Relief Act of 2022 took effect Saturday and sent gasoline prices down to an average of $3.26 a gallon, the lowest average daily price since January. The state’s average price per gallon fell 13 cents this week and reinforces the already steep decline in pump prices since the summer.
“While not everyone is so lucky to see gas for less than $3, all Floridians should expect a deep discount this week,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.
– Ana Goñi-Lessan, Democrat of Tallahassee
The deployment of the newest aircraft carrier delayed by weather conditions
The first deployment of the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, which was scheduled to depart Monday from Norfolk, Va., has been postponed due to storm issues, the 2nd Navy fleet. The new deployment date has not been announced. Ford is the flagship of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, over 1,000 feet long and able to accommodate a crew of 4,500. It will eventually sail in the Atlantic alongside ships from NATO allies, the navy said.
Cat rescue goes viral and attracts donations
Michael Ross, of Naples, Florida, was in Bonita Springs when Hurricane Ian hit. Ross, 29, said he and his family looked out the window and saw a cat clinging to an air conditioner. A video of Ross trudging through swirling floodwaters to snatch the cat to safety has gone viral and helped attract thousands of dollars in donations.
“I was able to go out there and get it, and it’s a good thing I did,” Ross said. “After this video was taken, the water came up like 6 feet more. And the air conditioner he was sitting on was under water.”
Ross started a GoFundMe page to support displaced animals and people in need. So far it has attracted over $22,000. But he hasn’t been able to find the cat’s owner yet.
“If we can’t find one, I’ll keep it,” Ross said.
– Tomas Rodriguez, Naples Daily News
After Hurricane Ian hit, ‘all the water came’
Flooding from 20 inches of rain from Ian blocked several roads in DeSoto County, Florida, turning some neighborhoods into islands. In addition to flooding homes, the waters engulfed a gas station and the Peace River Campground, where about 150 people lived year-round, officials said. Continued widespread power outages and poor cell service hampered evacuation efforts via airboats despite assistance from the Florida National Guard. The authorities were distributing water and cooked meals to the stranded people who did not want to leave.
“We know about hurricanes, but flooding is a new thing for us,” DeSoto County Commissioner JC Deriso said. “The storm, our community was pretty well prepared. But the flooding was quite unexpected. The rivers go up and down every year. But what we saw was once in a lifetime. At least we hope so.” Learn more here.
– Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
DeSantis calls for expedited recovery effort for ‘500-year flood’
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Sunday pushed for accelerated recovery efforts in southwest Florida, heavily damaged by Ian last week. DeSantis toured some of the areas still inundated by the storm, examining boat damage at North Port in Sarasota County and then at Arcadia in DeSoto County. Earlier in the day, he distributed food and water to hurricane victims in Naples in Collier County.
Homes in Arcadia were still flooded to the roofs and RVs were almost completely submerged, DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday.
“It was such a big storm, bringing so much water, that you basically have what was a 500-year flood here in DeSoto County and some of the neighboring counties,” DeSantis said.
Nearly 600,000 homes and businesses across Florida were left without power Monday, according to PowerOutage.us. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest power company, said it has restored power for nearly 1.7 million customers and expects to restore the majority of power by Friday.
– Colleen Wixon, Treasure Coast Journals
Fort Myers worshipers share their stories of survival Ian
On Sunday morning, several dozen seniors made their way to a destroyed church in Fort Myers, not far from where Hurricane Ian had made landfall days earlier. Outside was an overturned Jeep and blown dumpsters in a row of trees. A nearby discount mall and mobile home park were in tatters. Power lines hung over a road leading to Sanibel Island, cut by a destroyed bridge.
Beneath the toppled steeple of Southwest Baptist were soaked floors and holes in the roof. Bible pages spread out to dry. In the chapel, displaced members slept on makeshift beds made of chairs and water boiled with propane burners.
The church insisted on holding a service – even if it was to take place outdoors – for a vulnerable community stricken by loss and trauma. Read the full story.
– Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
Contributors: Jorge L. Ortiz and Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY; Sergio Bustos, USA TODAY Network Florida; Ed Reed and Stacey Henson, Fort Myers News Press; The Associated Press