Hurricane Ian struck Florida on Wednesday with a strength of Category 4, tying it for the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind speed, ever to strike the U.S, according to the Associated Press.
Reports of fatalities and damage caused by the hurricane are incomplete. More than 955,000 Lee County Florida Power & Light customers were without power as of Friday morning, according to the company's outage map.
See below for initial damage reports out of Southwest Florida:
Lee County (Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs)
Local coverage: www.news-press.com
Hurricane Ian took an agonizingly slow sweep through the region, leaving devastated families, ruined homes and uncertain futures, according to the Fort Myers News-Press. Among the hardest hit areas were Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs in Lee County.
Hurricane Ian made landfall at Cayo Costa in Lee County on Wednesday, just north of Captiva and Sanibel Islands.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on "Good Morning America" early Thursday that the number of deaths from Hurricane Ian could be devastating.
"There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued," Marceno said.
"And again, I can't give a true assessment until we're actually on scene assessing each scene. And we can't access, that's the problem. We're accessing the bridges, seeing what's compromised and what's not. And this will be a life-changing event for the men and women who are responding. They're going to see things they've never seen before."
Images and videos on social media from across Lee County showed flooded streets up to the second stories of some buildings, floating vehicles and destruction.
Among the most striking destruction caused by Hurricane Ian in Lee County is the damage to the causeway leading to Sanibel Island.
Where the bridge rises from the mainland toward the island, one of the first sections of the span has disappeared. Crumbled pavement lies near the water’s edge. The rest of the bridge stretches forward, unreachable, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Two Tampa Bay Times journalists have been assessing the damage from Hurricane Ian in Lee County for hours this morning.
Their latest find is jaw-dropping: A section of the causeway leading to Sanibel is gone, wiped out by the powerful Category 4 storm.https://t.co/EAjKtUwWR5
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) September 29, 2022
Local coverage: www.naplesnews.com
Naples, just south of Lee County, was hit similarly hard by Hurricane Ian, according to reporting from the Naples Daily News. While flooding in Naples earlier in the day was located primarily along the coast, water surged more inland by Wednesday afternoon as well, according to the Daily News.
The City of Naples advised motorists to not drive on city streets, as half of them are not passable because of high water and tides may raise the water level further.
River Park, the only Black neighborhood in Naples, has been hit hard by flooding. Water is waist-deep and people are having to evacuate on foot or remain trapped in their homes. Harold Weeks shared these photos with @NDN and @NDN_HarrietHeit pic.twitter.com/aeM7I4WoRH
— Kate Cimini (@k_cimini) September 28, 2022
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office, whose jurisdiction includes Naples, reported multiple parking garages on the coast were flooded with water over vehicle roofs. Additionally, the junction of Tamiami Trail and Fifth Avenue South near the downtown area of the city was underwater.
Images and video from Naples showed residents evacuating in high water, floating vehicles, flooded homes and other destruction.
Drone shows Ft. Myers Beach wreckage with home and businesses wiped away https://t.co/1ZU5mnvH2D
— Naples Daily News (@ndn) September 30, 2022
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pictures of hurricane Ian: See initial damage from Southwest Florida