Buildings have been leveled. Houses are under water. Fort Myers Beach ‘gone’ after Hurricane Ian damage.



FORT MYERS, Fla. – Joy McCormack stood across from a row of mobile homes, townhouses, and condos, now knee-deep in floodwaters.

He watched his neighbors commute to their homes, hoping to salvage something from the wreckage. He wondered how his home in the nearby Iona Ranch mobile home park was doing after Hurricane Ian, but knew that the destruction probably took him, too.

“I think mine will be a complete loss,” McCormack said. “This is the only house I have, and if it goes…”

His voice stopped.

For Mitch Stough and his brother Mike, Fort Myers Beach was their livelihood. It has now been destroyed.

“Edited,” Mitch told The News-Press, part of USA TODAY Network.

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Fort Myers Beach, along with Lee County’s other barrier islands, took the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s attack on the Florida coastline. The storm, which is a Category 4, sent 150 mph winds and a towering storm surge that shattered the town’s center as it made landfall.

With a population of over 92,000, Fort Myers is a popular city for tourists and spring breakers. The nearby small beach town of Fort Myers Beach sits on the skinny Estero Island, filled with beach bars, hotels, and resorts, which made Ian even more vulnerable as he pounded the area. The town has a population of about 6,000.

The cities and towns there were some of the first places the storm hit. Other parts of the state still see heavy rains and have yet to escape Ian’s grip. Local officials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden, say the storm will historically be deadly and costly.

This aerial photo shows homes and debris damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday.

This aerial photo shows homes and debris damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday.

Mitch and Mike Stough took shelter on the third floor of Estero Island Beach Club, where Mike works. From there, they saw the chaos from the front row. It was stated that the waves pouring on Estero Boulevard destroyed the lower floors of the buildings and carried vehicles. Their cars flew.

Mitch, who works at the landmark Lani Kai resort, said the storm surge broke the first floor of the resort into its structural elements.

“There’s nothing there,” he said. “Fort Myers Beach is gone.”

A few miles away, boats ripped from their warehouses could be seen thrown onto the guardrails. Closer to the Matanzas Pass Bridge, entire marina buildings were smashed, wooden docks bent and splintered. Sheriff’s deputies blocked access to Estero Island, saying the bridge was not safe to cross.

On San Carlos Island, rows of houses were destroyed by wind and water, their tiles peeled off and windows smashed. A boat blocking the middle of the road was swept off the driveway by the storm. The residents, who seemed to be shell-shocked, embarked on a monumental mission to collect pieces of debris from their gardens.

There was no going back for Mitch and Mike Stough: They said they were planning to move elsewhere.

“There’s nothing for us here. Our jobs are gone. Our car is gone. Nothing is clear,” he said. “It will take a few years to get this thing back into shape.”

DESTROY AND HAPPINESS: See city-by-city Hurricane Ian damage across Florida

Damaged homes and debris are shown on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., following Hurricane Ian.

Damaged homes and debris are shown on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., following Hurricane Ian.

Sanibel Island sees ‘Biblical’ destruction after Ian

A few miles to the west, part of the pass connecting Sanibel Island to mainland Florida had fallen into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island of 6,300 people.

There, the destruction was near complete. Aerial video by ABC News shows houses with damaged or missing roofs, some of which have been dragged from their foundations, and rows of houses surrounded by water from the storm surge.

“Sanibel is destruction. … It was really hit by the biblical storm surge,” DeSantis said.

He said rescuers were working to make those who remained on the island safe. Authorities confirmed on Thursday evening that two people had died on Sanibel Island, but the number was expected to rise dramatically.

Further south, the historic seaside pier in Naples was destroyed and even the piles beneath it were torn. “There is no pier at this time,” said Penny Taylor, a Collier County official.

Stan Pentz heard the loud and clear sound of rainwater pouring into his Iona Ranch mobile home in Fort Myers on Wednesday. He said the water was rising rapidly in the canals outside his house before he walked in through his sliding doors. Pentz clung to the shutters, desperately trying to get out as his house was flooded with water.

When he got out, the current swept him up and into the bushes around his house, where he stayed for three hours. The debris hit him before he swam towards a building for shelter.

He’s already gone home to try and save all he can, but it’s no use: “They’re all underwater.”

‘I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MUCH FLOODS’: Here’s how you can help those affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida

Contributed by: Associated Press

This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Fort Myers Beach ‘gone’ after Hurricane Ian ravaged Florida’s coast

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