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Causeway collapse; broken 'Spirit:' Ian's wrath upon SWFL

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Posted at 3:48 AM, Sep 29, 2022

Daylight reveals the full wrath of Hurricane Ian in what some county leaders have called a "disaster of unprecedented magnitude."

Lee County officials confirmed a portion of the Sanibel Causeway suffered "extensive damage." Our crew at the scene says a segment of an elevated portion of the road had collapsed.

The Sanibel Lighthouse, meanwhile, appears to have survived with minimal damage.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said at his Thursday morning briefing that the Pine Island Bridge connecting the island to Cape Coral is impassable. He added that 100 engineers are in the Southwest Florida counties inspecting all bridges for their structural integrity.

"The impacts of this storm are historic," DeSantis said. "And these are just initial assessments."

The governor said two people were confirmed dead as a result of Hurricane Ian.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in Lee County for those who remain unaccounted for.

As of Thursday morning, the extent of damage to water and power infrastructure throughout the region is not fully known. Florida Power & Light reported 952,400 customers without electricity in Sarasota, Lee, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Hendry counties.

At the statewide level, FPL said more than a half million customers had power restored by Thursday morning.

A doctor at HCA Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte confirmed the roof of the facility suffered heavy damage, leading to an immediate evacuation of the fourth-floor intensive care unit.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients -- some of whom were on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters," Bodine said.

Boil water notices are in effect in several city and county municipalities after Wednesday's storm inundated the area with water, a combined deluge of torrential rain, and devastating storm surge.

Damage to water pipes is expected in many areas. Water pressure is low where repairs are being made, which is why boil notices were enacted.

In addition, heavy water resources have been needed to fight fires in some areas.

"The City water supply is empty," Punta Gorda officials said in the overnight hours. "They are pumping at a rate of over 13 million gallons per day and cannot keep up."

East Naples deputies in Collier County performed 30 water rescues Wednesday.

In a briefing Wednesday night, Lee County officials confirmed reports of people being flooded to attics and even roofs of some homes.

Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves.

Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mother in North Fort Myers, whose home was swamped by 5 feet of water.

“We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know how they’re going to leave, their cars are totaled,” Hailer said. “Her only way out is on a boat.”

Lee County officials also confirmed one instance of looting to a convenience store in Fort Myers.

To mitigate the situation, counties such as Lee and Collier enacted immediate curfews until further notice.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. “for life-saving purposes,” saying violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.

“I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell said.

Fort Myers' historic and downtown districts suffered extensive damage. The legendary local sculpture 'Spirit of Fort Myers,' also known as 'Rachel at the Well,' was left in fragments.

North Port Police Department shared images of a Special Response Team beginning its deployment to aid hurricane victims. Sarasota County's Tactical First-In teams have also begun operations.

Approximately 42,000 linemen have already begun deployment to address power restoration efforts across the state.

More than 7,000 National Guard troops have been deployed for disaster response efforts.

If you would like to contribute to the Florida Disaster Fund, visit http://FloridaDisasterFund.org or text DISASTER to 20222.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


2024 STORM NAMES


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HURRICANE TERMS


Tropical Storm WATCH
An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.

Tropical Storm WARNING
An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.

Hurricane WATCH
An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm-force winds.

Hurricane WARNING
An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds