Ian recovery efforts in the Southeast will be complicated: Live updates
Residents across Florida, North Carolina and Virginia are picking up the pieces on Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. At least 81 people are confirmed dead in Florida, and some 750,000 homes and businesses remained without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Here's what we're following:
- Flooding and closed roads are some of the challenges people in Florida are dealing with as they assess the destruction
- Photos: Ian also caused significant damage in South Carolina, where it made a second landing
- President Biden will travel to Florida this week after first stopping in Puerto Rico to survey damage from Hurricane Fiona
Local reports from the NPR Network's member stations:
Hurricane Ian has killed at least 81 people in Florida, officials say
The confirmed death toll in Florida after Hurricane Ian is now at least 81.
The Florida Medical Examiners Commission provided a spreadsheet to NPR detailing 58 deaths. The most, 42, were in Lee County, an area that includes barrier islands that suffered some of the worst destruction.
The youngest victim was 22 and the oldest was 95. The vast majority of the deaths were attributed to drowning.
The spreadsheet did not report any deaths in Charlotte County, which borders Lee County to the north. But the Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said on Sunday that the number of people in his county that died either directly or indirectly from the hurricane is 23 and that the state medical examiner's office is now determining the official cause of death.
Officials are hoping to rescue more people alive, with 17 search and rescue teams operating across the state as of Sunday evening, according to the state fire marshal.
A number of beloved landmarks survived the storm in Lee County, Fla.
Thousands of people have lost homes and businesses in Florida after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Lee County — but some hope remains especially with beloved landmarks that still stand.
- The Sanibel Island Lighthouse, which has been around since 1884
- The "God Is Love" sign along McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, Fla.
- The Edison & Ford Winter Estates, the snowbird spots for Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Fort Myers
In North Carolina, 4 are dead and thousands are without power as Ian makes its exit
A day after Ian — now a post-tropical cyclone — passed through North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper says that his state "avoided the worst" of the storm.
At least four people died in North Carolina in connection to Ian, Cooper's office said Saturday. Three people while driving during wet conditions, and a fourth died while running a generator in a closed garage.
The storm initially knocked out power to 400,000 clients. By Sunday afternoon, roughly 21,000 customers remained without power, according to the state's Department of Public Safety. About a third of the ongoing outages were in Guilford County, home to Greensboro, the state's third-largest city. Dozens of roads were still closed Sunday.
"North Carolina has had a front row seat when it comes to the effects of climate change," said Cooper, a Democrat, speaking in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press.
Asked whether North Carolina should consider changes to building codes or flood insurance requirements, Cooper responded that "all of those issues have to be on the table."
"You have to make tough decisions when you rebuild," he said.
Hurricane Ian's death toll now stands at 48. The number is likely to rise
The death toll from Hurricane Ian has risen to at least 44 in Florida, according to the state's Medical Examiners Commission.
Thirty of the victims died in Lee County, the southwestern Florida county that is home to some of the storm's hardest-hit areas, including Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. Most of those killed in the storm died from drowning, the board said.
In addition to the Florida casualties, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday that four people had died in connection with the storm in his state, bringing the total known death toll to 48.
The storm wiped out bridges and knocked out power in much of coastal southwest Florida. The causeway bridge to Sanibel Island was damaged so badly that it can no longer be safely used. Speaking Sunday on ABC News's "This Week," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said it would take a "couple of years, at least" to rebuild the bridge. "There's just no way to continue life there," he said.
Officials are hopeful that more people may still be rescued alive in Florida. A dozen search and rescue teams are operating in Lee County, while a handful of others are working elsewhere in Florida, a state official said Sunday.
"While we certainly hope that we can continue to find more people alive and bring them out, we're going to support the state in their needs as we continue to go house by house and make sure everybody is accounted for," said Deanne Criswell, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a CNN interview Sunday.
President Biden will visit Puerto Rico and Florida this week
President Biden will visit Puerto Rico on Monday and Florida on Wednesday to survey the damage left by two major hurricanes.
Speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus event Saturday night, Biden said his heart was heavy about the damage caused by the two hurricanes. "We owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they've already gotten," he said.
Biden pledged that the nation stands ready to do "whatever it takes" to help with search and rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Fiona, then a Category 1 storm, on Sept. 18. The hurricane dumped 30 inches of rain on parts of southwestern Puerto Rico, causing floods and mudslides and knocking out power to the entire island. At least 13 people have died in connection with the storm, and the territory's Department of Health is investigating another 12 deaths.
A week and a half later, Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm, causing massive damage to areas around Fort Myers. The storm then dragged across central Florida and made a second landfall on South Carolina. The death toll currently stands at more than 40.
Officials are using boats and helicopters to rescue people from the flood damage
In southwest Florida, boats and helicopters are being used to rescue people from their homes as rivers have flooded following Hurricane Ian.
The Myakka River began rising Thursday because of heavy rain deposited over the state by Hurricane Ian. It is beginning to subside after having reached a new record high, more than 2 feet above major flood stage. Neighborhoods in Sarasota and Charlotte counties that escaped flooding during the storm have since had to evacuate.
Monique Davis lives in the city of Arcadia, where helicopters were being used to rescue residents trapped by flooding on the Peace River.
"The people that live right on the river have stilt houses, but they only go so high, you know, and the river is way up," Davis said.
Other communities have also been flooded in central and northwest Florida from Ian's record rainfall.
Florida residents are trying to reckon with the damage caused by Ian
Crystal Edge left the 28-year-old sailboat that belonged to her late mother tied up at a marina underneath the Fort Myers Beach Bridge. After Hurricane Ian passed, Edge came back to check on the family heirloom. It had sunk and was piled underneath another boat in the marina.
"If she would have been here, she would have stayed on that boat. And she would have tried to ride the storm, because that was her life. That was her baby. That was her legacy. And it's gone," Edge told Jack Prator of member station WUFT.
With some help, Edge has been trying to recover the mast from the boat’s wreckage, which she intends to repurpose as a flagpole to honor her mother.
People displaced by Ian shared their stories at a shelter in Florida's Lee County
At an arena turned shelter in the city of Estero, Fla., displaced people from Hurricane Ian were still being bussed in this weekend from Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island.
Among those displaced by the storm was Gary Scot Janikula, who had his 40-foot house boat anchored in the back bay of Fort Myers Beach. But since Ian came through, he doesn't know where it is.
"I mean, I've lost everything, so it's start from scratch. I'm just hoping I can find the houseboat and salvage as much as possible. But this is gonna take a long time to recover," he told WUSF's Jessica Meszaros.
Janikula evacuated to the second floor of the local Baptist Church Wednesday morning before the storm hit.
He heard glass breaking, timber snapping and wind howling beneath him.
"This is the worst that I've seen," he said. "For that matter, anybody that's been on Fort Myers Beach, or Sanibel, this area of Southwest Florida."
Flooding and closed roads are some of the biggest issues in Florida
For residents in and around Fort Myers — even those fortunate enough not to have experienced much damage to their homes — fulfilling everyday needs is proving difficult. Power is still out in many areas. While water has been largely restored, there are no guarantees that it's safe to drink, so boil orders remain in place. Lines for gasoline can stretch for hours in many places.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been called to help with the water system, and power has been restored for a little more than half of the customers who lost it after the storm, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Meanwhile, response crews have been aided by good weather, speeding the repair of power lines and clearing of debris.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell says that priorities include helping search and rescue missions, and working to restore water and power services in hardest-hit Lee County.
"We're already beginning our planning processes for what the recovery is going to look like," Criswell told NPR's Weekend Edition. "So while we're still saving lives and stabilizing this incident, we know that we're going to have a long and complex recovery. So we're putting the measures in place right now to make sure we've got the right people on the ground to do that in the days to come."
But as National Weather Service meteorologist Ross Giarratana explains, "even though the heavy rain and bad weather have left the state, all that rain that we did have is continuing to drain through our river system, so we've seen historic rises on many rivers across a good portion of west central and southwest Florida."
Read more here.