NATIONAL NEWS

Search for victims done, Florida coast aims for Ian recovery

Oct 10, 2022, 10:55 AM | Updated: Oct 12, 2022, 11:13 am
A destroyed building sits among debris after Hurricane Ian passed through the area on October 08, 2...
A destroyed building sits among debris after Hurricane Ian passed through the area on October 08, 2022 in Sanibel, Florida. Residents of the island are hopeful that the causeway onto the island will be repaired soon so they can start the process of rebuilding their homes after it was heavily damaged during the hurricane leaving the island cut off from the mainland. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — An army of 42,000 utility workers has restored electricity to more than 2.5 million businesses and homes in Florida since Hurricane Ian’s onslaught, and Brenda Palmer’s place is among them. By the government’s count, she and her husband Ralph are part of a success story.

Yet turning on the lights in a wrecked mobile home that’s likely beyond repair and reeks of dried river mud and mold isn’t much solace to people who lost a lifetime of work in a few hours of wind, rain and rising seawater. Sorting through soggy old photos of her kids in the shaded ruins of her carport, Palmer couldn’t help but cry.

“Everybody says, ’You can’t save everything, mom,’” she said. “You know, it’s my life. It’s MY life. It’s gone.”

With the major search for victims over and a large swath of Florida’s southwest coast settling in for the long slog of recovering from its first direct hit from a major hurricane in a century, residents are bracing for what will be months, if not years, of work. Mourning lost heirlooms will be hard; so will fights with insurance companies and decisions about what to do next.

Around the corner from the Palmers in Coach Light Manor, a retirement community of 179 mobile homes that was flooded by two creeks and a canal, a sad realization hit Susan Colby sometime between the first time she saw her soggy home after Ian and Sunday, when she was picking through its remains.

“I’m 86 years old and I’m homeless,” she said. “It’s just crazy. I mean, never in my life did I dream that I wouldn’t have a home. But it’s gone.”

Officials have blamed more than 100 deaths, most of them in southwest Florida, on Ian, a powerful Category 4 storm with 155 mph (249 kph) winds. It was the third-deadliest storm to hit the U.S. mainland this century behind Hurricane Katrina, which left about 1,400 people dead, and Hurricane Sandy, which killed 233 despite weakening to a tropical storm just before landfall.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis has heaped lavish praise on his administration for the early phases of the recovery, including getting running water and lights back on and erecting a temporary bridge to Pine Island, much more remains to be done. There are still mountains of debris to remove; it’s hard to find a road that isn’t lined with waterlogged carpet, ruined furniture, moldy mattresses and pieces of homes.

On the road to Estero Island, scene of the worst damage to Fort Myers Beach, workers are using heavy machines with huge grapples to snatch debris out of swampy areas and deposit it into trucks. Boats of all sizes, from dinghies to huge shrimpers and charter fishing vessels, block roads and sit atop buildings.

DeSantis said at least some of the roadmap for the coming months in southwest Florida may come from the Florida Panhandle, where Category 5 Hurricane Michael wiped out Mexico Beach and much of Panama City in 2018. Panama City leaders will be brought in to offer advice on the cleanup, DeSantis told a weekend news conference.

“They’re going to come down on the ground, they’re going to inspect, and then they’ve going to offer some advice to the local officials here in Lee County, Fort Myers Beach and other places,” DeSantis said. “You can do what you want, you don’t have to accept their advice. But I tell you that was a major, major effort.”

In a region full of retirees, many of whom moved South to get away from the chill of Northern winters, Luther Marth worries that it might be more difficult for some to recover from the psychological effects of Ian than the physical destruction. Two men in their 70s already have taken their own lives after seeing the destruction, officials said.

Fort Myers was sideswiped by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but Marth said that storm was nothing like Ian, and the emotional toll will be greater, especially for older folks.

“I’m 88 years old. People my age struggle,” said Marth, who counts himself and his wife Jacqueline among the lucky despite losing a car and thousands of dollars worth of fishing gear, tools and more when their garage filled with more than 5 feet (1.52 meters) of water.

“If you got wiped out financially you don’t want to start over again, you don’t have the will to start again,” Marth said. “So those are the people my heart breaks for.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

This booking image provided by the Chicago Police Department, shows Eva Bratcher, who has been accu...
Associated Press

Daughter charged after mom’s body found in Chicago freezer

A Chicago woman is accused of keeping her mother’s dead body in a freezer for nearly two years while living in a nearby apartment.
21 hours ago
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves her office at the Longworth House Office Building on February 02...
Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro

House GOP votes to oust Democrat Omar from major committee

House Republicans have voted to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
21 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol on F...
Colleen Long and Chris Megerian, Associated Press

Biden urges unity at prayer breakfast under new management

President Joe Biden attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday in Washington and delivered a message of unity.
21 hours ago
FILE: Groundhog handler AJ Derume holds Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow, predicting a late sp...
Associated Press

Phil’s Groundhog Day prediction: 6 more weeks of winter

A furry critter in a western Pennsylvania town has predicted six more weeks of winter during an annual Groundhog Day celebration.
21 hours ago
Law enforcement officers aim their weapons at a home during a standoff in Grants Pass, Ore., on Tue...
Associated Press

Oregon kidnapping suspect dies of self-inflicted gunshot

The suspect in a violent kidnapping in Oregon has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
2 days ago
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after a Federal Open M...
Christopher Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

Fed lifts rate by quarter-point and signals more hikes ahead

The Federal Reserve extended its fight against high inflation Wednesday by raising its key interest rate by a quarter-point, its eighth hike since March.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Search for victims done, Florida coast aims for Ian recovery