Evacuated residents have begun returning to their homes after Hurricane Ian— only to find neighborhoods they no longer recognize.
CBS News flew with the Coast Guard from Clearwater to Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Naples as it surveyed some of the most devastated areas in Florida. Boats had been swept inland and were piled on top of each other, with many leaking oil and other chemicals into the water. Homes were missing roofs, others were crushed and scraped down to their foundations.
The storm’s churning water forever changed the coastline, with tons of sand blown inland. Its winds and storm surge were so powerful that it washed away three parts of Sanibel Causeway, the only way on and off Sanibel Island. It could take months to fix.
Army Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner was on the helicopter surveying the damage to roads, bridges and other vital structures.
“We’re looking at pump stations. We’re looking at nursing homes, hospitals,” Hibner said.
Keri Faught and Jonathan Richards rode outat their house. They huddled together for hours as water inundated the ground level of their home.
“He’s screaming at me, ‘Get in the attic,” Faught said. They were in the attic from 4:30 p.m. to almost 7 a.m. the next day.
She said the experience was “awful.”
Despite orders to evacuate, many people across Florida’s southwest coast sheltered in place during the storm. Search and rescue teams are uncovering scenes of enormous loss in the aftermath.
Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida Division of Emergency Management,that appeared to have human remains inside.
“Let me paint the picture for you,” he said. “The water was up over the rooftop.”
Rescue workers are going door to door and have gone through more than 3,000 homes, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who met Friday with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Days after the storm slammed Florida, nearly 2 million customers are still without power as of Friday afternoon, and some still don’t have water.
President Biden said 44,000 workers from 33 states are in Florida working around the clock to get the power back on, but it will take time.
“We see what you are going through and we are with you,” Mr. Biden said. “We are going to do everything we can for you.”