This is a live news blog about the aftermath of Hurricane Ian which hit Southwest Florida on Friday, Sept. 29.
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7:42 pm. | Businessman saves lives in Island Park area
At least one house burned to the ground, while one man reportedly saved more than two dozen lives by literally pulling them from their attics in the flood-prone Island Park community.
Neighbors give Mike Murphy credit for saving upwards of 27 lives,10 dogs and a cat by literally pulling people from their attics.
He and Roy Johnson leapt from the second story of Murphy's house and swam 100 yards to a fishing skiff. They climbed aboard the boat and started going house to house, knocking on roofs to see if anyone was was alive below.
"When the surge came up we got a call from a friend of ours and a lady down the street with a special needs son was swimming in the living room," Murphy said. "So we got the call and we had a Carolina skiff out back."
6:46 p.m. | Lee schools closed week of Oct. 3
— School District of Lee County (@LeeSchools) September 30, 2022
Based on our most recent assessments of schools, as well as no power or water, we have made the decision to close all schools & district offices next week. Reopening our schools is one of our top priorities. We will do so in a manner that is sensible & effective. Thank you.
— School District of Lee County (@LeeSchools) September 30, 2022
6:10 p.m. | Amphibious vehicle arrives on Sanibel
AT&T has been working to gain access to Sanibel Island - which was cut off from the mainland – to begin our restoration efforts there. For this, our FirstNet team loaded a portable cell site onto one of the newest members of our disaster recovery fleet, the amphibious vehicle (link to photos here) which is currently navigating to the island.
In the past 24 hours we have made significant progress in gaining access, assessing, and restoring service to areas impacted by Hurricane Ian:
We have more than 180 crews focused on the hardest hit areas to keep wireless communications running so first responders, emergency personnel and others can stay connected - and more than half of our impacted cell sites in Florida have already been restored.
We began providing other carriers’ customers the ability to roam on our networks. As a result, customers will automatically be connected to our network if their carrier’s network is not available.
The FirstNet team continues to support public safety and FirstNet subscribers by deploying full-scale communications solutions. Our fleet of SatCOLTs (Satellite Cell on Light Trucks) are rolling out to DeSoto, Hardee, Lee and Sarasota counties. We have sites on-air already in Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Sarasota, and Lee counties. Also in the dozens of requests, FirstNet cell sites were restored in Hendry, Lee and Orange counties.
3:57 | FGCU closed until Oct. 9
FGCU Tweeted an update stating classes and activities are now closed until Oct. 9.
All classes and events cancelled through Oct. 9. Tell us how you are doing at FGCU Storm Recovery Call Center at (239) 310-5398
— FGCU (@fgcu) September 30, 2022
3:36 p.m. Deaths due to Hurricane Ian
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno confirms that there are 21 deaths, five of which are not storm related.
UPDATE FROM SHERIFF MARCENO|
We can confirm 21 deaths, 5 of which are not storm related.
Our hearts go out to friends & family who lost their loved one in this tragic storm.
We are here for you & we will get though this together. pic.twitter.com/dBOjjF0BaG
— Carmine Marceno - Florida’s Law and Order Sheriff (@SheriffLeeFL) September 30, 2022
3:30 p.m. Before and after photos of Sanibel Island vacation destinations
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has started to release satellite imagery of areas in southwest Florida damaged by Hurricane Ian.
In an interactive map published Friday, parts of Caya Costa, Captiva, and Sanibel Island were shown. Areas of Cape Coral and Fort Myers along the Caloosahatchee River were, too.
2:40 p.m. | Desantis to Pine Island residents: "We've got to provide access"
Stopping at the Lee County village of Matlacha, Gov. Ron DeSantis Friday afternoon attempted to give some assurance to residents eager to return to homes on neighboring Pine Island, cut off from the mainland by road and bridge damage from Hurricane Ian.
“Look, I’m committed to fixing that, you know, with the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Obviously, the county can help. We’ve got to provide access. But how quickly can that be done, even with best efforts is unclear.”
Similar destruction is keeping even more residents away from homes on Sanibel Island, not far from where Ian made landfall and where rescue workers have gone door-to-door checking on the safety of those who remained while the Category 4 storm tore through.
Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said that getting law enforcement and other officials onto the barrier islands is among the first tasks, to clear debris and gauge the security of still-standing roads and other structures.
“Then, we will work on trying to get you guys back in there,” Guthrie said.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said he’s talked with state officials about getting a ferry that could be used to temporarily move residents and emergency workers onto the barrier islands.
He and DeSantis also flexed muscle by saying that security will be a priority in the wake of the storm.
“We are not going to tolerate, I mean zero tolerance when we say anyone who thinks they’re going to thrive on the residents of this county or state, when we just took a horrific hit, I can guarantee you, that is not going to happen,” said Marceno.
DeSantis chimed in. “I was touring Punta Gorda yesterday and they’ve boarded up all the businesses and there were people who wrote on their plywood, ‘you loot, we shoot,’” the governor said.
“At the end of the day, we are not going to allow lawlessness to take advantage of this situation,” he added.
1:49 p.m. | What Bonita Springs residents need to know
Motorists are instructed to stay off the roadways to allow recovery efforts to proceed safely, the city of Bonita Springs warned Friday.
"Search and rescue efforts continue throughout the county with local, state and federal resources on air, sea and land," city officials said. "First responders are encountering traffic that is hindering their efforts. Traffic is also slowing responding agencies that are assessing roads, restoring electrical service and staging other recovery efforts.
Access to Bonita Beach Road from the Forester Drive and Hickory Boulevard intersection is limited to residents on foot only. Lee County Department of Transportation closed Big Hickory Pass Bridge due to damage from Hurricane Ian.
The closure of the bridge, which is on the south end of Estero Island between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach, is currently effective. During a bridge inspection Friday, engineers identified deficiencies, leading to the closure. Lee DOT is working with the Florida Department of Transportation, the news release said.
Also, the city will be conducting structural inspections and some structures may be condemned. Bonita Springs earlier Friday also started the first push for debris removal.
Lee County is working with its partners to establish Points of Distribution for free food and water. Those sites will be announced Friday afternoon and will be located throughout the county.
Lee County shelter operations continue and shelter capacity will be maintained. If your home was impacted by the storm and you need shelter, you can still go. Check leegov.com/storm for updates on shelter locations.
Crews from Lee County Department of Transportation continue to assess area roads and bridges. The following bridges are closed: Sanibel Causeway, three bridges in Matlacha, New Pass, Big Carlos Pass Bridge and Big Hickory Pass Bridge.
Lee County Utilities and other water providers ask that anyone who witnesses water bubbling up from the ground report it to the utility serving your area. Remember to conserve water as much as possible.
Please continue to be vigilant and alert as sheet flow can still impact water levels of rivers and canals in the coming days.
While staying at home and cleaning storm-related yard waste:
Stack it separately from garbage or building debris.
Yard waste does not need to be bundled after the storm.
Place it in piles that can easily be managed by collection personnel with a claw truck.
Do not place any waste below overhead obstacles such as trees or powerlines or near hydrants or mailboxes.
If working with a chainsaw, please observe all safety precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends:
Clear away dirt, debris, small tree limbs and rocks from the saw’s chain path. Look for nails, spikes or other metal in the tree before cutting.
Shut off the saw or engage its chain brake when carrying the saw on rough or uneven terrain.
Keep your hands on the saw’s handles, and maintain balance while operating the saw.
Proper personal protective equipment must be worn when operating the saw, which includes hand, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing and head protection.
Do not wear loose-fitting clothing.
Be careful that the trunk or tree limbs will not bind against the saw.
Watch for branches under tension; they may spring out when cut.
Gasoline-powered chainsaws must be equipped with a protective device that minimizes chainsaw kickback
1:36 p.m. | Lee schools may be closed next week, still unknown
Lee County Schools may be closed for longer than Friday depending on how long the school-based shelters are needed following Hurricane Ian, according to Superintendent Christopher Bernier.
“We are definitely closed on Friday,” Bernier said Thursday. “Until the community has a place other than school buildings … I don't suspect they (the shelters) will be closed by Monday. More people need help.”
While a number of people left the shelters early Thursday, many are returning after learning their homes are gone, damaged, or unsafe, according to Bernier.
1:16 pm. | Lee consolidates shelters
Fort Myers, FL, Sept. 30, 2022 – Lee County is consolidating its shelter operations this afternoon as the shelter population shifts during recovery efforts. The remaining shelters still have space for people in need.
The shelters remaining open are:
East Lee County High School, 715 Thomas Sherwin Ave., Lehigh Acres
Estero Recreation Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero
Hertz Arena, 11000 Everblades Pkwy., Estero
Island Coast High School, 2125 DeNavarra Pkwy, Cape Coral
South Fort Myers High School, 14020 Plantation Road, Fort Myers
Dunbar High School, 3800 Edison Ave., Fort Myers
The residents staying in the following shelters will be relocated to other shelters this afternoon:
Harns Marsh Middle School, 1820 Unice Ave. N., Lehigh Acres
Oak Hammock Middle School, 5321 Tice St., Fort Myers
Veterans Park Recreation center, 55 Homestead Road, Lehigh Acres
Varsity Lakes Middle School, 801 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres
Tortuga Preserve Elementary, 1711 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres
Treeline Elementary, 10900 Treeline Ave., Fort Myers
Manatee Elementary, 5301 Tice St., Fort Myers
Gateway High School, 13820 Griffin Drive, Fort Myers
Evacuees will have the option of moving to another shelter using their own vehicles or LeeTran. LeeTran vehicles will be taking evacuees to any of the open shelters of their choice.
12:39 p.m. | Fort Myers Beach 'impassable'
Lee County Sheriff: "Fort Myers Beach is impassable. We hear you. We understand you have loved ones on the island. Please understand it’s not safe to drive onto the island. Bicycles cannot even make it through clear pathways. We’ll keep you updated on when it’s safe to travel on the island."
12:23 p.m. | How to donate to help Hurricane Ian victims
The Collier Community Foundation has reactivated their Collier Comes Together Relief Fund to help Hurricane Ian victims.
This allows the foundation to get immediate aid where it's needed most, according to the foundation's press release.
Hurricane Ian live Thursday updates: Boil water notice issued for parts of Collier County
One hundred percent of the donations are given to nonprofits helping victims and their families without administrative fees.
"The fund serves to assure donors' support will reach its intended cause," the press release said. "Fraudulent sites pop-up following a disaster or emergency that mislead donors about where their funds will go."
For more information and to donate online to the Hurricane Relief Fund, visit colliercf.org.
Checks may also be mailed to the Collier Community Foundation at 1110 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 200, Naples, FL 34108. Please note Hurricane Fund in the memo line.
11:52 a.m. | Lee County officials urge residents to stay off the road
Lee County gave an update recovery efforts Friday morning and told residents to stay off the roads as they are hindering local relief efforts.
"Search and rescue efforts continue throughout the county with local, state and federal resources on air, sea and land," the county said in a press release Friday. "First responders are encountering traffic that is hindering their efforts. Traffic is also slowing responding agencies that are assessing roads, restoring electrical service and staging other recovery efforts."
11:04 a.m. | Bonita springs update
Bonita Springs Utilities, Inc. has maintained water service during and after Hurricane Ian throughout our service area, with the exception of Bonita Beach including Little Hickory Island, Big Hickory Island, and Black Island and the area west of Imperial Shores Blvd along Bonita Beach Road. These areas remain without water service at this time. All other portions of the service areas have water service available and are not under a boil water notice. FP&L has restored power to BSU’s two water plants and back-up generator power is no longer required. BSU’s two wastewater plants continue to rely on back-up generator power. We continue to request that our members conserve water. This is necessary as many of our wastewater lift stations remain without power and it will take time to pump down stations and send flow to the treatment plants.
If you have any questions, please contact Andy Koebel, Director of Operations, Bonita Springs Utilities, Inc. at (239) 992-0711.
10:38 a.m. Two million people without power in Florida
Power: Nearly 2 million customers were without power Friday morning, according to utility tracker poweroutage.us. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, reported Friday that it had restored power to more than 1 million customers — more than half of those affected by the monster storm.
Travel: Airports in Tampa and Orlando were expected to reopen Friday, while Fort Myers Airport in southwest Florida remained closed Friday. More than 1,660 flights were canceled Friday due to the storm, according to FlightAware.
Deaths. The destruction left behind by Ian has made it difficult to get an accurate assessment of the loss of life, but there are already reports of 21 deaths, officials said Friday morning.
State officials said only one of these deaths, in Polk County, was confirmed as a result of the storm, and authorities were still evaluating the cause of the 20 other deaths: 12 were in Charlotte County and eight in Collier County.
But local officials in these areas were also reporting deaths:
Sanibel Island officials reported two deaths on Thursday.
In Lee County, which includes the island of Cayo Costa near Cape Coral where the storm made landfall, at least five deaths were confirmed, Sheriff Carmine Marceno told CNN.
In Deltona, about 30 miles northeast of Orlando, a 72-year-old man died after falling into a canal while using a hose to drain his pool in the heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
In Sarasota County, the sheriff's office reported two deaths related to the hurricane.
9:27 a.m. | Gas lines are long in SWFL
7:22 a.m. l Bonita Springs fared better than other areas
Residents in this south Lee County community “have help coming,” Fire Chief Greg DeWitt said. “We know we have five federal teams. (That) encompasses high water vehicles, swift water teams and structural collapse teams.
Hurricane Ian brought heavy winds and flooding to Naples. Roads were flooded and tree were uprooted. And a mandatory curfew remains in effect.
Even so, the city fared better than others in the county.
“It looks like there is damage but that it is manageable,” a relieved Deborah Smith Thurman said of Bonita. “Not total devastation.”
The mess won’t be cleaned up right away. Lee County Solid Waste garbage collection is scheduled to resume Monday on the normally scheduled day for all routes in franchise areas that are accessible to collection trucks, officials said.
But the collection is for household garbage only: Everyday trash items and all spoiled food.
Storm debris is collected separately from household garbage, officials said, and collection of recycling will also resume on an undetermined date.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Friday updates: Lee County continues recovery from Hurricane Ian