Days after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, the storm’s effects are still ravaging parts of the state. Bridges to barrier islands are washed out, roadways are flooded and some areas are seeing a lack of power or water.
The situation in many areas isn’t expected to improve for several days because waterways are overflowing, leaving the rain that fell with nowhere to go.
Amid the devastation, the death toll is rising. CBS News has confirmed at least 103 people died due to the storm — 99 in Florida and another 4 in North Carolina.
For many, it is expected to be a long road to recovery.
About 130 Florida Department of Transportation trucks have started work on building a temporary bridge to Pine Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast and by the end of the week should be finished on a structure drivers can carefully traverse at slow speeds, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
The governor said a similar temporary bridge is planned for nearby Sanibel, but it will take a little more time.
“They were talking about running ferries and stuff,” DeSantis said. “And honestly, you may be able to do that, but I think this is an easier thing, and I think people need their vehicles anyways.”
The first two days without power at his Punta Gorda home weren’t bad because he, his wife and 4-year-old daughter like to camp, Joe Gunn said.
But then they ran out of gas, Gunn said as he waited for an hour for $20 worth of premium fuel from a Bonita Springs station, one of the few open in the area. The family then drove to get supplies and a hot meal.
Gunn was preparing for another stressful night, worried someone might try to steal his supplies. “I am constantly listening to the generator. It’s pitch black outside of the house,” he said.
Across southwest Florida, residents whose homes were overrun by the sea or floods threw waterlogged mattresses, couches and other belongings into the street and tore out floors and cut into walls, hoping to dry the shells of their houses before mold set in.
“Everything that got water is starting to mold. We’re cutting all the drywall out, 2 feet up, trying to get things dried out to save the house and to protect it from more damage,” said Jeff Rioux, thankful for several days of nice weather and generators to run fans.
Neighbors helped each other where they could.
“I lost everything,” said Alice Pujols, crying as she picked through the heaps of castaway clothes at a stranger’s home. “I’m just looking for what I can salvage.”
About 431,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity Tuesday morning.
Eric Silagy, Chairman and CEO of Florida Power & Light, said he understands the frustrations and emphasized that the utility’s crews are working to get power restored as soon as possible. The utility provider — the largest in the state — expects to have power restored to 95% of the service areas affected by Hurricane Ian by the end of the day Friday, he said.
“If all goes well, we will be able to have all of our customers — the over 2 million that were impacted by this monster storm — essentially restored,” Silagy said.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit Florida on Wednesday. The president was in Puerto Rico on Monday, promising to “rebuild it all” after Hurricane Fiona knocked out all power to the island two weeks ago.