FORT MYERS, Fla. — People kayaking down streets that were passable only a day or two before. Hundreds of thousands without electricity. National Guard helicopters flying rescue missions to residents still stranded on Florida’s barrier islands.
Days after Hurricane Ian tore a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas, the dangers persisted and even worsened in some places. It was clear that the road to recovery from this monstrous storm will be long and painful.
And Ian wasn’t done yet. The storm lashed Virginia with rain on Sunday, and authorities warned of the possibility of severe flooding along its coastline, with a coastal flood warning in effect Monday.
The remnants of Ian moved offshore and formed a northeasterly pattern that is expected to pack even more water into an already flooded Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in the last 10 years. 15 years, Cody Poche said. , a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The island city of Chincoteague declared a state of emergency Sunday and strongly recommended that residents in certain areas evacuate. The eastern seaboard and northern Outer Banks of North Carolina are also likely to be affected.
At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy told NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday that the search and rescue mission would take place over the next few days. Murphy said that’s why residents who evacuated are largely staying away from their homes.
With the death toll rising, Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a big way, focusing first on victims in Florida, which bore the brunt of one of the strongest storms to make landfall. in the U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.
Flooded roads and washed-out bridges to the barrier islands left many people isolated amid limited cell phone service and a lack of basic services like water, electricity and internet. Authorities warned that the situation in many areas is not expected to improve for several days because the rain that has fallen has nowhere to go as water courses are overflowing.
Fewer than 620,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without power Monday morning, down from a high of 2.6 million.
Criswell told “Fox News Sunday” that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense, had put in place “the largest number of search and rescue assets that I think we’ve ever put in place before.”
Still, recovery will take time, said Criswell, who visited the state Friday and Saturday to assess damage and speak with survivors. He warned that dangers remain with downed power lines in standing water.
More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida’s emergency management agency.
Rescue missions were ongoing, especially on barrier islands near Fort Myers in southwest Florida that were cut off from the mainland when storm surges destroyed roadways and bridges.
The state will build a temporary traffic passage for the largest, Pine Island, Florida Govt. Ron DeSantis said Sunday, adding that an appropriation had been approved for the Department of Transportation to build it this week and construction could begin as early as Monday.
“It’s not going to be a full bridge, you’re probably going to have to cross it at 5 miles an hour or something, but it will at least allow people to get in and out of the island with their vehicles,” the governor said. he told him at a press conference.
Coast Guard, municipal and private crews have been using helicopters, boats and even jet skis to evacuate people in recent days.
In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned boots, boots and bug spray to paddle to their flooded homes Sunday.
Ben Bertat found 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water in his home by Lake Harney after kayaking there.
“I think it’s going to get worse because all this water has to get into the lake,” Bertat said, pointing to water flooding a nearby road. “With the saturation of the soil, this entire swamp is full and cannot take any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s going any lower.”
Elsewhere, power remained out in at least half of South Carolina’s Pawleys Island, a coastal community about 75 miles (115 kilometers) off the coast of Charleston. In North Carolina, the storm downed trees and power lines.
Associated Press reporter Rebecca Santana in Ft. myers; Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee; David Fisher in Miami; Sarah Rankin of Richmond, Va.; and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.
For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: apnews.com/hub/hurricanes