Residents allowed to return to Florida island battered by Hurricane Ian

Residents were allowed to return to a coastal island decimated by Hurricane Ian on Saturday with a warning from the governor that the disaster is not over.

Many of the homes still standing on Estero Island lack basic services, so portable toilets, hand-washing stations, shower trailers and other essentials have been trucked in for residents who want to stay, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. Debris still needs to be removed before rebuilding can begin.

“There’s a lot more to do and really some of the hardest things are still ahead of us,” DeSantis said.

While residents were initially allowed to return to the island after the storm, officials closed access to allow crews to complete a search of the building debris building possible victims. Once the work was finished, residents lined up and were allowed to return on buses.

Shana Dam went to see what was left of her parents’ house.

“He’s gone,” he told the Fort Myers News-Press. “Just left”.

Tropical Florida weather
Laundry inside a damaged laundromat, on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, one week after Hurricane Ian,

Rebecca Blackwell / AP

Just getting around the island, where most of Fort Myers Beach is located, is difficult due to storm debris, but heavy equipment was used to clear the roads.

Fort Myers Beach said it will begin allowing more residents to return to the island starting Sunday morning, CBS affiliate Fort Myers WINK reports. At a press conference Saturday, the mayor of Fort Myers Beach said there is no water or power on the island and there will be no trash pickup.

According to WINK, residents who want to return to view the damage are expected to be off the island by 7 p.m., when a nighttime curfew will begin.

With handmade signs throughout the area warning that looters will be shot by homeowners, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said only nine such cases of theft have been reported.

Ian, top notch Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (249 km/h) on land, it was the third-deadliest storm to hit the mainland this century behind Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,400 and Superstorm Sandywhich had a total death toll of 233 despite weakening to a tropical storm shortly before making landfall in the US.

State officials have reported 94 storm-related deaths in Florida so far, and most were in Lee County, which includes the Fort Myers area and nearby Gulf islands, including Estero. CBS News contacted local sheriffs and, with their records, confirmed at least 125 deaths – directly or partially – due to the hurricane in Florida.

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