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Officials in Fort Myers implement 6pm curfew due to LOOTERS targeting local businesses

Fort Myers has staged a citywide 6pm curfew following multiple reports of looters targeting local businesses left savaged in Hurricane Ian’s aftermath – as Floridians continue to survey the extent of the damage done by one of the strongest storms in US history.

The impacts of Ian, made landfall in the beachside city as a Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday, has left officials to scrambling to address extensive infrastructure damage and likely deaths, carrying out 700 confirmed rescues, Governor Ron DeSantis revealed during a 7:30 pm press update Thursday.

The chaos has since also sparked looting, officials in Lee County revealed, result in the activation of a county-wide curfew – which will effect more than 413,000 citizens.

The reported incidents brazenly defied warnings from lawmen across the county that ‘looting and violence’ in the aftermath would ‘not be tolerated’ as flooding died down Thursday. 

Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Lee County Manager Roger Dejarlais ordered the curfew for all cities including Fort Myers in his jurisdiction, where the brunt of the hurricane was felt before it moved northeast to communities such as Orlando and Jacksonville.

The address saw the official warn prospective offenders of ‘a zero tolerance policy for looting and violence’ – which he said will stay in place ‘until further notice.’ 

The county head said there will be some exceptions to the order – including those pertaining to work, health care, grocery shopping, or school – while also stressing that looting and violence in the storm’s wake would not be tolerated.

Staggering before and after photos, meanwhile show the extent of the destruction in county seat Fort Myers caused by Ian – leaving the door open for such vandals to capitalize on the unrest and turn a profit.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Lee County Manager Roger Dejarlais ordered the curfew for all cities including Fort Myers in his jurisdiction, where the brunt of the hurricane was felt, after receiving reports of looting in the county seat

Pictured is the scenic Fort Myers pier before the storm struck cities on Florida's southwest coast Wednesday

A photo snapped Thursday shows that the pier was ripped out of its pilings by 18 foot storm surges and 155 mph winds brought by the historic storm

BEFORE AND AFTER: The pilings from Fort Myers Beach pier are all that are left after Hurricane Ian passed through city Wednesday – one set of several staggering before and after photos that show the extent of the destruction in caused by Ian – leaving the door open for such vandals to capitalize on the unrest and turn a profit

Eerie aerial pictures show the destruction to Fort Myers from Hurricane Ian after the 'superstorm' ripped its beloved pier from its hinges

Eerie aerial pictures show the destruction to Fort Myers from Hurricane Ian after the ‘superstorm’ ripped its beloved pier from its hinges

Before and after shots showed the devastation to the small coastal city, with homes leveled, ships swept on to land and fires breaking out through ghost town neighborhoods

Before and after shots showed the devastation to the small coastal city, with homes leveled, ships swept on to land and fires breaking out through ghost town neighborhoods

The extreme damage can be seen in aerial photographs, with homes swept towards the water in Fort Myers as trees and buildings lay broken

The extreme damage can be seen in aerial photographs, with homes swept towards the water in Fort Myers as trees and buildings lay broken

Aerial shots show the level of devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, as mobile homes and other less secure structures can be seen strewn across the floodwater in Fort Myers

Aerial shots show the level of devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, as mobile homes and other less secure structures can be seen strewn across the floodwater in Fort Myers

‘Our community has been, in some respects, decimated,’ DesJarlais said during a late-night briefing Wednesday at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center as the storm was still raging. 

He added that the city’s Sanibel Island was also rocked by the ‘historic’ hurricane, with houses overwhelmed by water, debris flung through windows and some even ripped from their hinges by flooding. 

‘There is tremendous damage on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach,’ the official said. 

The county head added that officials were not yet aware of ‘the full extent of the damage’ to the county, as officials continue to search for hundreds reported missing and feared dead.

The official went on to announce the evening curfew for residents, after revealing that amid the chaos of Ian, looting and other crimes had been already begun in the county.

‘Earlier today, when law enforcement was unable to respond because of weather conditions… there was a break-in on Cleveland Avenue,’ DesJarlais said of one such reported instance near the city’s center and the then overflowed Caloosahatchee River

‘Earlier today, when law enforcement was unable to respond because of weather conditions, it was unsafe, there was a break-in on Cleveland Avenue and there was looting,’ Lee County Manager Roger DesJarlais said during a press conference.

‘There was looting and there was a group of people, don’t know a lot about it yet, who just had their way.’

The official added that authorities believed that the targeted business was a gas station , prompting a request from the city to order the curfew. After talks with Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, DesJarlais obliged, issuing the order that evening after speaking with county and city officials about enacting the curfew.

DesJarlais said the curfew would be in place indefinitely, ‘until further notice,’ but mentioned a potential 48-hour limit.

The curfew includes unincorporated Lee County and all cities with the exception of Estero at this time, he said, as Estero officials could not be reached. The city, which is just tot he south of Fort Myers, reportedly experienced similar flooding and hurricane force winds as it neighbors.

DesJarlais was also asked about deaths in his county – to which he said that five in his county have so far been confirmed.

In nearby Charlotte, Volusia, Sarasota, and Lake counties, a further 12 casualties have been reported – a number that is expected to swell in the coming days as officials sift through the carnage. 

Lee County, which includes cities such as Fort Myers and Cape Coral, saw devastating impacts from the now Category 1 storm, which downgraded to a tropical storm after pummeling much of the southwest and central parts of the state before intensifying over the Atlantic Thursday afternoon.  

It is now forecast to make a third landfall – its second in the US – in South Carolina Friday morning, as well as neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, as more than 2.6million Floridians remain without power, DeSantis said Thursday.

During a separate press conference on Wednesday, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno warned residents about looting and other prospective violence that may emerge as the city seeks to recover following the widespread destruction.

‘A message that’s very clear for any of those individuals that think they’re gonna go out there and loot or prey on people during this horrific event,’ Marceno said. ‘You better think twice. When I say zero tolerance, zero tolerance means we will hunt you down, track you down and you’re going to jail if you’re lucky.’

Badly battered Collier County, meanwhile, which is also in southwest Florida and is home to the city of Naples, has since also declared a curfew until further notice, put into place Thursday night at 10 pm to 6 am, the county’s sheriff’s department said in a statement.

‘The purpose of the curfew is to protect the safety of the citizens of Collier County and their property as they begin the process of recovering from the effects of Hurricane Ian,’ the announcement read, 

The county, which experienced major flooding and damages on Wednesday, is home to more than 385,000.

Lee County officials, meanwhile, said they are receiving and tracking 9-1-1 calls from residents, such as those stranded by high water and storm surge, said Lee County public safety director Ben Abes.

The address also saw Lee County public safety director Ben Abes (center) reveal that officials are receiving and tracking 9-1-1 calls from residents, such as those stranded by high water and storm surge

The address also saw Lee County public safety director Ben Abes (center) reveal that officials are receiving and tracking 9-1-1 calls from residents, such as those stranded by high water and storm surge

‘Please know that we are with you,’ said Lee County public safety director Ben Abes. ‘We are all part of our community. Our loved ones are here. Our homes are here, and we are here and we are going to get through this together.’

Eerie aerial pictures show the total destruction of Fort Myers from Hurricane Ian after the ‘superstorm’ ripped its beloved pier from its hinges.

Before and after shots captured the devastation to the small Florida city, with homes leveled, ships swept on to land and fires breaking out through ghost town neighborhoods.

The sea finally appeared to have ebbed back from the shoreline to reveal the devastation to the once tropical paradise, with trees yanked from their roots and roofs shed from restaurants along the promenade.

Meanwhile helicopter images showed buildings across the city splattered with holes where debris was flung by the storm.

It comes as Ron DeSantis said the tsunami-like flooding was a ‘once in a 500-year’ event and revealed it has left 2.7million without power across his state.

In a press conference on Thursday evening, DeSantis said that Florida had ‘never seen a flood event of this magnitude.’

He added that both Lee and Charlotte County are in ‘difficult situations’ and ‘off the grid’ after being the hardest hit, and recovery efforts there will focus on rebuilding communication and rescuing those in need.

‘We absolutely expect to have mortality from the its hurricane,’ he said, after revealing that officials have so far carried out more than 700 confirmed rescues, as an increasing amount of citizens exit their homes to survey the damage – with some unfortunately taking advantage of the unrest.

He has since enlisted aim from the federal government, with Biden administration providing 50 National Guard helicopters to search for survivors and rescue the thousands still stranded, missing or stuck in their homes following extensive damage from the torrent of water and 155mph winds.

Seventeen are confirmed to have been killed as a result of the storm, according to county officials’ count.

Many emerged from their bunkers on Thursday morning to witness the devastation to their communities, with some bursting into tears at the sight of their belongings destroyed.

Lee County’s Sheriff has also said was one of the worst natural disasters since Katrina with hundreds dead, but he later tempered his comments after DeSantis and FEMA insisted the death toll is not known.

Yet he did not row back on the claims, simply saying they were preliminary, as he also warned that ‘looting and violence’ in the aftermath would not be tolerated.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is urging residents to prepare to be hit hard by Ian, warning them of the ‘dangerous unpredictability’ of the storm which continues to change course.

Boat have been left partially submerged at a marina in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

Boat have been left partially submerged at a marina in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

Horrifying pictures show the level of devastation in Fort Myers with boats usually in the marina being forced onto the shore amid broken palm trees and damaged infrastructures

Horrifying pictures show the level of devastation in Fort Myers with boats usually in the marina being forced onto the shore amid broken palm trees and damaged infrastructures

People look on at destroyed boats after Hurricane Ian swept through at the Centennial Park in Fort Myers

People look on at destroyed boats after Hurricane Ian swept through at the Centennial Park in Fort Myers 

Homes in Fort Myers were on fire on Thursday morning as the area continues to be devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Homes in Fort Myers were on fire on Thursday morning as the area continues to be devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian 

Homes in Fort Myers have been decimated by the storm, with several properties being washed away and crashing into other buildings

BONITA SPRINGS: A Plymouth vehicle was turned upside down outside of a luxury beachside property which was badly affected by the storm

BONITA SPRINGS: A Plymouth vehicle was turned upside down outside of a luxury beachside property which was badly affected by the storm

BONITA SPRINGS: Property in Bonita Springs, close to Naples, were damaged by storm surges with holes in the walls

BONITA SPRINGS: Property in Bonita Springs, close to Naples, were damaged by storm surges with holes in the walls

SANIBEL ISLAND: A military Chinook landed on Sanibel beach in the wake of the hurricane after all bridges to and from the island were destroyed

SANIBEL ISLAND: A military Chinook landed on Sanibel beach in the wake of the hurricane after all bridges to and from the island were destroyed

SANIBEL ISLAND: A fire broke out on several properties across Sanibel Island as emergency services battled to protect the homes

SANIBEL ISLAND: A fire broke out on several properties across Sanibel Island as emergency services battled to protect the homes

SANIBEL ISLAND: A section of the Sanibel Causeway was lost due to the effects of Hurricane Ian, and it is unclear when repairs will begin

SANIBEL ISLAND: A section of the Sanibel Causeway was lost due to the effects of Hurricane Ian, and it is unclear when repairs will begin

President Biden has claimed that Hurricane Ian could be the 'deadliest' Florida has ever seen with a 'substantial loss of life'

President Biden has claimed that Hurricane Ian could be the ‘deadliest’ Florida has ever seen with a ‘substantial loss of life’

Residents in Fort Myers were met with scenes of devastation when they were able to get to the lower floors of their properties, which were left in chaos after floodwater swept through

Residents in Fort Myers were met with scenes of devastation when they were able to get to the lower floors of their properties, which were left in chaos after floodwater swept through

BEFORE
AFTER

Sanibel Island has been partially destroyed by Hurricane Ian, with the popular tourist resort suffering devastating blows

Properties in Fort Myers are on fire as other residents were faced with a boat outside their home in the street which had been pushed out of the marina by the hurricane

Properties in Fort Myers are on fire as other residents were faced with a boat outside their home in the street which had been pushed out of the marina by the hurricane

Vehicles are still trying to make their way through the stagnant water left from the flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

Vehicles are still trying to make their way through the stagnant water left from the flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

Debris has gathered in a lake near damaged properties in Fort Myers, Florida, being pushed to one side by the 155mph storm winds

Debris has gathered in a lake near damaged properties in Fort Myers, Florida, being pushed to one side by the 155mph storm winds

Good Samaritans are seen in Orange County trying to keep children from wading through the flash floodwater as Hurricane Ian continues to cross the state

Good Samaritans are seen in Orange County trying to keep children from wading through the flash floodwater as Hurricane Ian continues to cross the state 

A section of the Sanibel Causeway was knocked out by Hurricane Ian, leaving the population of 6,300 residents stranded in the aftermath of the killer storm as it is the only way on or off the island

The causeway was deserted as authorities try to assess the level of damage to the bridge, before being able to transport assistance and food to the island

The causeway was deserted as authorities try to assess the level of damage to the bridge, before being able to transport assistance and food to the island

Shawn Hulbert, 38, stands outside his damaged home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, Florida

Shawn Hulbert, 38, stands outside his damaged home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, Florida

President Biden spoke with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis early on Thursday morning after pledging federal assistance to nine counties

President Biden spoke with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis early on Thursday morning after pledging federal assistance to nine counties

He also warned of potential power outages and confirmed that he has activated members of the state’s National Guard, adding: ‘So, for North Carolinians, I want to be clear, this storm can still be dangerous and even deadly.

‘Heavy rains, up to seven inches in some areas, are likely to bring flooding. Landslides are a threat in our mountains and there’s a chance of tornados state-wide.’

Ian blasted ashore with catastrophic force on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center in an update early on Thursday.

Experts are expecting the damages to cost up to $260billion, though the clean-up efforts are currently unable to get underway as swathes of Florida remain underwater.

Sanibel Island has been cut off from the mainland after the Causeway Bridge collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico due to the force of the tempest.

Ian is currently around 35 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral, with maximum speeds of 65mph, and is moving northeast at around 8mph.

Speaking at a press conference at FEMA’s HQ,  President Biden said: ‘It is still moving across the state today. This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.’

The president added: ‘The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.’

Earlier he declared it a ‘major disaster’ and freed up funds to help those without power and hundreds of thousands whose homes have been leveled.

The President also confirmed he was in ‘close coordination’ with the Florida governor after a phone call early on Thursday morning.

 The monster storm continues to rage across the US as:

  • Multiple weather warnings are in place across Orlando, as flash flooding continues to ravage central Florida;
  • Six inches of rain could fall in southern Virginia as the storm moves inland over towards the Carolinas;
  • The NHC has warned that landslides were possible in the southern Appalachian mountains on Friday;
  • Two people have died, likely as a result from the storm, but their causes of death are still unconfirmed.
Flamingos were evacuated to the bathroom at Sunken Gardens, St Pete, in Florida, on Wednesday after Hurricane Ian made landfall

Flamingos were evacuated to the bathroom at Sunken Gardens, St Pete, in Florida, on Wednesday after Hurricane Ian made landfall

A horse and a foal as well as dogs are kept in a living room of a house north of Tampa as owners took drastic measures to ensure their animals stayed safe

A horse and a foal as well as dogs are kept in a living room of a house north of Tampa as owners took drastic measures to ensure their animals stayed safe

Footage shows cars struggling to make their way through the floodwater, as trees lay strewn across the road as aerial pictures show the extent of the damage

Footage shows cars struggling to make their way through the floodwater, as trees lay strewn across the road as aerial pictures show the extent of the damage

Jackie Pelton walks around her home that was destroyed after flood waters inundated the building and caused the first floor to be swallowed

Jackie Pelton walks around her home that was destroyed after flood waters inundated the building and caused the first floor to be swallowed

Search and rescue teams started helping families flee the waterlogged areas of Kissimmee, Florida

Search and rescue teams started helping families flee the waterlogged areas of Kissimmee, Florida

A child carries a damaged plant from their home as an adult watches on, taking in the chaos caused by the hurricane in Punta Gorda

A child carries a damaged plant from their home as an adult watches on, taking in the chaos caused by the hurricane in Punta Gorda

Orlando authorities transported a person out of the Avante nursing home amid heavy flooding in central Florida

Orlando authorities transported a person out of the Avante nursing home amid heavy flooding in central Florida

Though it is not clear exactly what caused the fires to break out, it could have been sparked by damaged power cables, lightning or generators being destroyed by the storm

Though it is not clear exactly what caused the fires to break out, it could have been sparked by damaged power cables, lightning or generators being destroyed by the storm

Dozens of damaged boats can be seen strewn across downtown Fort Myers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, with many piled up on top of each other

Dozens of damaged boats can be seen strewn across downtown Fort Myers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, with many piled up on top of each other 

Ian blasted ashore with catastrophic force on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center in an update early on Thursday

Ian blasted ashore with catastrophic force on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center in an update early on Thursday

This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite handout image shows Hurricane Ian, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, making it’s way over the Atlantic 

Firefighters battled against the flames in Fort Myers as the area was swept with a wave of destruction following the hurricane

Firefighters battled against the flames in Fort Myers as the area was swept with a wave of destruction following the hurricane

Seventeen confirmed dead as Biden warns it could be the deadliest storm in Florida’s history

At least seventeen people are confirmed to have been killed as a result of the storm, officials said Thursday. 

President Biden, meanwhile, said on Thursday that Ian could be the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida in its history. 

The 1928 Okeechobee hurricane was the fourth deadliest hurricane in the United States, killing 2,500 people. 

Almost all of  the fatalities occurred in Florida, and reached Category 5 after strengthening  before making landfall near West Palm Beach on September 17. 

In the city, more than 1,711 homes were destroyed; the effects were most severe around Lake Okeechobee.

A storm surge of 20ft flooded hundreds of square miles  as houses and buildings were swept away, costing $100million in damages. 

LEE COUNTY

Lee County Sheriff Marceno, whose area covers Fort Myers, one of the worst affected areas by the monster storm, confirmed that he was expecting hundreds of fatalities in his jurisdiction alone.

He told GMA: ‘While I don’t have confirmed numbers, I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds.

‘Thousands of people are waiting to be rescued, I cannot give a true assessment until we are on scene assessing each scene and we can’t access people that is the problem. 

‘This will be a life changing event for the men and women who are responding. This is a life-changing event for all of us.’

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood predicted the recovery effort for the tsunami-life waves hitting the state will be like ‘something we’ve not seen in this county ever.’

The Sheriff’s department also confirmed that a man, 72, was found dead in water in a canal behind his home in Deltona near Daytona Beach.

He appeared to be using a hose to drain his pool into the wide canal and fell down an incline that was ‘extremely soft and slippery due to the heavy rain.’

Meanwhile horrifying footage showed flames and black smoke coiling into the sky in Fort Myers as homes were suddenly being engulfed by the blaze.

In a press conference on Thursday evening, DeSantis said that Florida had ‘never seen a flood event of this magnitude.’

He added that both Lee and Charlotte County are in ‘difficult situations’ and ‘off the grid’ after being the hardest hit, and recovery efforts there will focus on rebuilding communication and rescuing those in need.

‘We absolutely expect to have mortality from the its hurricane,’ he said, after revealing that officials have so far carried out more than 700 confirmed rescues, as an increasing amount of citizens exit their homes to survey the damage – with some taking advantage of the unrest.

FORT MYERS: Debris littered the street in Fort Myers as the clean up and rescue mission got underway, with the US Coast Guard confirming that they have performed 28 rescues

FORT MYERS: Debris littered the street in Fort Myers as the clean up and rescue mission got underway, with the US Coast Guard confirming that they have performed 28 rescues

FORT MYERS: Smoldering homes in Fort Myers Beach can be seen as firefighters worked hard to put out the flames amid the water damaged homes

FORT MYERS: Smoldering homes in Fort Myers Beach can be seen as firefighters worked hard to put out the flames amid the water damaged homes 

FORT MYERS: Rescuers this morning admitted they are only 'scratching the surface' and the actual number of victims could soar even higher than a few hundred

FORT MYERS: Rescuers this morning admitted they are only ‘scratching the surface’ and the actual number of victims could soar even higher than a few hundred

FORT MYERS: A beach home has been completely destroyed by the winds and floodwater of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

FORT MYERS: A beach home has been completely destroyed by the winds and floodwater of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers

PUNTA GORDA: Damaged homes are seen in Punta Gorda, as plywood and other debris are strewn across the road and lying by the side of properties

PUNTA GORDA: Damaged homes are seen in Punta Gorda, as plywood and other debris are strewn across the road and lying by the side of properties

Orlando nursing home residents are carried out one-by-one after historic Ian hits central Florida 

Emergency crews were seen evacuating elderly residents from an Orlando nursing home on Thursday as a one-in 1,000-year storm continues to batter the theme park capital of the United States before it makes its way to South Carolina.

In Orlando, the storm caused life-threatening and catastrophic flooding in the city of 2.7 million residents, the Wall Street Journal reports, leaving people to kayak through the streets to safety as all the highways into Orlando — and even the international airport — remain closed.

The feet-deep water was even strong enough to stop an ambulance in its tracks, as Orange County Fire and Rescue were seen trying to evacuate elderly residents from the Avante at Orlando nursing center.

The department posted a series of videos on Twitter Thursday morning showing crews entering the facility wearing knee-length jackets.

They then came out carrying elderly residents in stretchers and bringing them to nearby buses, where they would reportedly be brought to nearby shelters.

As the fire rescue crews moved into the nursing home, wind from the storm could be seen picking up.

Officials said they evacuations were being conducted as a precaution as floodwaters continue to rise in the city, according to WFTV.

Lee County’s Sheriff also raised fears it was one of the worst natural disasters since Katrina with hundreds dead, but he later tempered his comments after DeSantis and FEMA insisted the death toll is not known. 

However he did not row back on the claims, simply saying they were preliminary, as he also warned that ‘looting and violence’ in the aftermath would not be tolerated.

Currently there are 15 river gauge locations in Florida at or above flood stage, nine of those are at major flood stage, and three have reached all-time records.

Floodwaters are expected to rise further as the Myakka River, Horse Creek and Peace River all broke their records.

FORT MYERS

The town of Punta Gorda, north of Fort Myers, was in near-total darkness after the storm wiped out power, save for the few buildings with generators.

Video images of the storm’s fury with floodwater reaching rooftops in the worst-hit communities, sweeping away cars and the ruins of homes as palm trees were bent almost in half.

Fire crews and police officers have been inundated with calls from people trapped in flooded homes, while others posted on social media pleading for themselves or loved ones to be rescued after they chose to ride out the storm at home rather than heed evacuation orders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said rescue crews have been unable to reach them due to the ferocity of the winds and flooding.

Horrifying footage shows  debris-strewn water flooding the ground floor of homes, prompting residents to rush to higher levels.

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

She said:  ‘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. Her only way out is on a boat.’

Robbie Berg, senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said: ‘It doesn’t matter what the intensity of the storm is. We’re still expecting quite a bit of rainfall.’

The US Coast Guard has already performed 28 rescues since they went out in the early hours of the morning.

FORT MYERS: Footage shows power lines and foliage strewn across the streets of Fort Myers, with some cars and properties undergoing significant damage

FORT MYERS: Footage shows power lines and foliage strewn across the streets of Fort Myers, with some cars and properties undergoing significant damage

PUNTA GORDA:  Foliage and trees remain strewn in the streets of Punta Gorda, as residents attempt to start the clean up

PUNTA GORDA:  Foliage and trees remain strewn in the streets of Punta Gorda, as residents attempt to start the clean up 

PUNTA GORDA: The level of devastation is shown in Punta Gorda, close to Fort Myers, with broken trees strewn across the road and floodwater remaining

PUNTA GORDA: Residents in Punta Gorda were forced to clear out their own properties with chainsaws as trees were strewn across the area

PUNTA GORDA: Residents in Punta Gorda were forced to clear out their own properties with chainsaws as trees were strewn across the area

PUNTA GORDA: Lilly Indarjit, 16, stands in her damaged home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, which was badly flooded

PUNTA GORDA: Lilly Indarjit, 16, stands in her damaged home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, which was badly flooded

PUNTA GORDA: Tom Park begins cleaning up the damage in Punta Gorda after Hurricane Ian moved through the Gulf Coast of Florida

PUNTA GORDA: Tom Park begins cleaning up the damage in Punta Gorda after Hurricane Ian moved through the Gulf Coast of Florida

PUNTA GORDA: A boat is almost fully submerged on the coast of southwest Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian which has moved towards the center of the street

PUNTA GORDA: A boat is almost fully submerged on the coast of southwest Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian which has moved towards the center of the street 

FORT MYERS: Boats are stacking up together on the shores surrounding Fort Myers, with debris also overflowing into the water

FORT MYERS: Boats are stacking up together on the shores surrounding Fort Myers, with debris also overflowing into the water

PUNTA GORDA:

PUNTA GORDA: 

PUNTA GORDA: Brave officials helped an elderly man to safety in almost chest high water near Fort Myers which was badly hit by the hurricane

PUNTA GORDA: Brave officials helped an elderly man to safety in almost chest high water near Fort Myers which was badly hit by the hurricane

FORT MYERS: Residents of mobile homes clean up debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which saw several of the properties blown over

FORT MYERS: Residents of mobile homes clean up debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which saw several of the properties blown over

They have been searching for people in distress, with the majority rescued from Fort Myers to St. Petersburg.

Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson, a US Coast Guard commander, added that Fort Myers rescues were both maritime rescues as well as roof rescues.

Currently eight Coast helicopters are currently in the air, ‘blanketing’ the southwest of Florida.

He added: ‘Right now, we’re responding to a distress call in Lakeland, Florida, which is between St. Petersburg and Orlando… they’ve had a lot of rain and flooding in that area.

‘We’ve sent a helicopter up there to respond to a report of six people on a roof that need rescuing.’

NAPLES

Authorities are also asking everyone to stay off the roads as it is ‘not safe’, telling anyone who remained in the county to wait for the storm to pass.

Firefighters in Naples are urging locals to find the highest point of their home to remain safe, but are warning residents to stay out of their attic’s.

Collier County Sheriff’s Office, which includes Naples, added: ‘Portable towers are on the way for cell service. Chances are your loved ones do not have ability to contact you.

‘We can tell you as daylight reveals the aftermath, it’s going to be a hard day.’

The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) says that the next 72 hours will be the most critical when it comes to rescue missions in southwest Florida.

Officials from Naples added that damage in their area alone is at least $200million, with $20million coming from damage to City property.

PUNTA GORDA: A firefighter stands by fallen trees aftermath of hurricane in Punta Gorda district, as Ian is intensifying to become a Cat 1 hurricane when it his South Carolina on Friday

PUNTA GORDA: A firefighter stands by fallen trees aftermath of hurricane in Punta Gorda district, as Ian is intensifying to become a Cat 1 hurricane when it his South Carolina on Friday

FORT MYERS: Police patrols the Centennial Park after Hurricane Ian hit, with floodwater still stagnant in the roads

FORT MYERS: Police patrols the Centennial Park after Hurricane Ian hit, with floodwater still stagnant in the roads

LEE COUNTY: Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, whose area covers Fort Myers, which has been one of the worst affected by the monster storm, confirmed that he was expecting hundreds of fatalities in his jurisdiction alone

LEE COUNTY: Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, whose area covers Fort Myers, which has been one of the worst affected by the monster storm, confirmed that he was expecting hundreds of fatalities in his jurisdiction alone

NAPLES: Firefighters in Naples, Florida, are warning residents to say on high ground until they can be rescued

NAPLES: Firefighters in Naples, Florida, are warning residents to say on high ground until they can be rescued

NAPLES: A McLaren P1, worth around $1.2million, was flooded out of a garage and into the road alongside a Rolls-Royce Phantom, destroying the super car as it was washed away in Naples, Florida

NAPLES: A McLaren P1, worth around $1.2million, was flooded out of a garage and into the road alongside a Rolls-Royce Phantom, destroying the super car as it was washed away in Naples, Florida

NAPLES: Emergency services in Naples have already begun rescue missions for residents who are trapped in their homes

NAPLES: Emergency services in Naples have already begun rescue missions for residents who are trapped in their homes

ORLANDO: People paddle by in a canoe next to a submerged car in the aftermath of flash flooding in an attempt to get to safety

ORLANDO: People paddle by in a canoe next to a submerged car in the aftermath of flash flooding in an attempt to get to safety

ORLANDO: A car was abandoned with the boot open, and was submerged in a flooded road due to heavy rains from Hurricane Ian

ORLANDO: A car was abandoned with the boot open, and was submerged in a flooded road due to heavy rains from Hurricane Ian

ORLANDO: A truck drives through a flooded highway ramp following Hurricane Ian, in Orlando, Florida, as flash flood warnings are in place

ORLANDO: A truck drives through a flooded highway ramp following Hurricane Ian, in Orlando, Florida, as flash flood warnings are in place

ORLANDO: Emergency crews were seen evacuating elderly residents from an Orlando nursing home on Thursday

ORLANDO: Emergency crews were seen evacuating elderly residents from an Orlando nursing home on Thursday

ORLANDO: Orange County Sheriff's Office helped to move residents in Orlando who had become trapped by flash flooding

ORLANDO: Orange County Sheriff’s Office helped to move residents in Orlando who had become trapped by flash flooding

ORLANDO: Hundreds of power company trucks ready to restore power as 40,000 linemen ready to get to work across Florida

ORLANDO: Hundreds of power company trucks ready to restore power as 40,000 linemen ready to get to work across Florida

ORLANDO: Orange County Fire Rescue team help people stranded by Hurricane Ian with boats as they try to evacuate residents from their homes

ORLANDO: Orange County Fire Rescue team help people stranded by Hurricane Ian with boats as they try to evacuate residents from their homes

Biden declares major disaster in Florida: President frees up funds for state ravaged by Hurricane Ian

Joe Biden declared a ‘major disaster’ in Florida early Thursday morning after Hurricane Ian made landfall, leaving 2.5 million without power.

The president’s declaration makes federal funding available to nine counties on the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State. The funding could include assistance for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to help cover uninsured property, among other programs. 

The cost of repairing and reconstructing homes from the storm damage could cost up to $260 billion, according to property experts CoreLogic. 

ORLANDO

Flash flood warnings are in effect for Orange and Brevard counties as rain from Hurricane Ian hits central Florida.

Volusia is also under a flash flood emergency, with river levels rising above 30.6ft, as winds of 95mph are being recorded.

Chief Lauraleigh Avery, emergency manager for Orange County Government’s Office of Emergency Management, said: ‘Wherever they are, they need to stay put.

‘We could have a really rapid amount of rain, a lot of rain coming really fast. We were already expecting 12 to 20 inches of rain. Now we could go up to 30 in some areas.’

WHITE HOUSE

DeSantis confirmed that he had spoken to President Biden, and that he would be seeking further federal support and funding as Ian heads towards Orlando with rising water levels.

During a press conference on Thursday, Biden confirmed that FEMA would assist Florida in the clean up, and foot the bill from the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian.

Speaking from the FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, he said: ‘ It is still moving across the state today. This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. 

‘The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.

‘My message to people in Florida, at times like this: America comes together. We’re going to pull together as one team, as one America.

‘The federal government will cover 100% of the cost to clear debris and for all the costs the state has to engage in and expend to save lives.

‘The federal government will also cover the majority of the cost of rebuilding public buildings like schools and state fire stations.

SANFORD: Firefighters clear fallen trees outside a building in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Sanford

SANFORD: Firefighters clear fallen trees outside a building in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Sanford

BARTOW: A commercial sign was seen bent over outside of a drive-thru restaurant in Bartow, after being hit by high speed winds

BARTOW: A commercial sign was seen bent over outside of a drive-thru restaurant in Bartow, after being hit by high speed winds

BARTOW: Downed trees in Bartow, Florida, lay across the road as large trucks are called in to remove them in order to get the town functioning normally again

BARTOW: Downed trees in Bartow, Florida, lay across the road as large trucks are called in to remove them in order to get the town functioning normally again

BARTOW: Police officers direct the traffic during a power outage as officials work to repair the electricity lines

BARTOW: Police officers direct the traffic during a power outage as officials work to repair the electricity lines

NORTH PORT:  Damaged cars with smashed windshields and airbags expanded can be seen on the side of Interstate 75 in North Port

NORTH PORT:  Damaged cars with smashed windshields and airbags expanded can be seen on the side of Interstate 75 in North Port 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described the mass flooding from Hurricane Ian as a 'once in a 500-year' event, and confirmed that 2.6million are currently without power

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described the mass flooding from Hurricane Ian as a ‘once in a 500-year’ event, and confirmed that 2.6million are currently without power

Brand new McLaren supercar worth over $1 MILLION is washed from Florida garage by floodwater 

A brand-new McLaren P1 worth over $1million is swept down the street in Naples by flood waters as catastrophic Ian continues to pummel Florida.

Ernie shared footage of his own heartbreaking loss as his newly purchased McLaren P1 was engulfed in flood waters, swept out of his garage and down the mansion-lined street which now resembles a raging river.

The car enthusiast appears to have a fleet of luxury cars – which he shows off regularly on his Instagram account.

But the McLaren P1 has dominated the last 12 posts of Ernie’s account with the first starting a week ago when he posted that the car only had 300 miles on it. It was reportedly priced at over $1 million when it first went on sale.

On Wednesday evening, Ernie shared photos of his hurricane-ravaged Florida neighborhood in Naples where streets had turned into rivers. His garage – where the McLaren P1 and Rolls Royce were housed – was completely flooded and both vehicles were submerged in water.

In his most recent post, only the top of the bright yellow McLaren P1 could be seen as it floated down the street. His caption read: ‘Car went thru the garage.’

Before the hurricane struck, Ernie had posted a photos of the car with the caption ‘My hurricane supply car #p1’

His followers shared in his heartbreak, and wrote messages of support in his comment, while others made snarky remarks on his previous posts.

‘Earlier this week I approved his request for the pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide direct federal assistance to the state, for emergency protective measures to save lives, including search and rescue and shelter and food.

‘Earlier this morning I approved the governor’s most recent request for expedited major disaster declaration.’

In a statement the White House added: ‘The President spoke this morning with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida to discuss the steps the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to support Florida in response to Hurricane Ian, including the issuance of a Disaster Declaration this morning.

‘The President told the Governor he is sending his FEMA Administrator to Florida tomorrow to check in on response efforts and see where additional support is needed. The President and Governor committed to continued close coordination.’

Lee County Sheriff’s Office have advised people struggling to get through to ‘keep trying’ as no electricity and patchy cellphone coverage meaning many calls for help weren’t getting through.

The slow-moving hurricane is continuing to unleash drenching rains as it creeps inland, trapping scores of people – believed to be thousands – in their flooded homes.

‘Severe and life-threatening storm surge inundation of 8 to 10 feet above ground level along with destructive waves is ongoing along the southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor,’ the National Hurricane Center warned.

Florida’s idyllic southwestern shoreline, dotted with sandy beaches, coastal towns and mobile home parks, was rapidly transformed into a disaster zone inundated by seawater.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott earlier this week sent urban search-and-rescue teams, consisting of 45 people, four boats and two canines, to help with the efforts.

SANIBEL ISLAND

Thousands of residents on Sanibel Island have had their only way to flee completely destroyed, as the Causeway fell into the see.

It cut off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people usually live, though it is unclear how many chose to stay on the island despite the mandatory evacuation orders.

The island was battered by 150mph winds and huge tsunami-like waves as Ian made landfall yesterday, with footage showing hotel guests battling to keep the windows on a building.

A time-lapse video shows how quickly the remote coastline island was swallowed by the masses of floodwater, becoming completely submerged in just 30 minutes. 

SANIBEL ISLAND: Residents walk through the rubble in downtown Fort Myers as debris is littered all over the streets

SANIBEL ISLAND: Residents walk through the rubble in downtown Fort Myers as debris is littered all over the streets

SANIBEL ISLAND: Boats are stacked up against the Port Sanibel Marina Motel after they were all dragged across the floodwater by the hurricane

SANIBEL ISLAND: Boats are stacked up against the Port Sanibel Marina Motel after they were all dragged across the floodwater by the hurricane

PORT CHARLOTTE: Hospital staff at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital were forced to evacuate after floodwater burst through the roof

PORT CHARLOTTE: Hospital staff at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital were forced to evacuate after floodwater burst through the roof

ST PETERSBURG: Rescue and clean up efforts have started in St Petersburg, Florida, which was hit with severe wind and rain causing severe damage

ST PETERSBURG: Rescue and clean up efforts have started in St Petersburg, Florida, which was hit with severe wind and rain causing severe damage

SARASOTA: Storm debris litters a street in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Sarasota, Florida

SARASOTA: Storm debris litters a street in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Sarasota, Florida

KEY WEST: Hurricane Ian passed over Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West causing flood damage and prompting evacuations of Navy personnel and families

KEY WEST: Hurricane Ian passed over Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West causing flood damage and prompting evacuations of Navy personnel and families

PONCIANA: A man looks at his cellphone while drives a motorcycle through a flooded area after being hit by Hurricane Ian

PONCIANA: A man looks at his cellphone while drives a motorcycle through a flooded area after being hit by Hurricane Ian

TAMPA BAY

Officials in Tampa confirmed that they were reopening the Sunshine Skyway Bridge after closing because of high speeds over 40mph. 

 Florida’s Highway Patrol said: ‘The Skyway Bridge has been reopened to traffic in both directions as wind speeds have dropped to 30 MPH. 

‘Motorists may cross the span, but are asked to use caution due to debris along the highway shoulders.’

Sunday’s NFL game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will also be played as scheduled  in Raymond James Stadium.  

SOUTH CAROLINA

Up to a foot of rain is forecast for parts of Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

As much as 6 inches could fall in southern Virginia as the storm moves inland over the Carolinas, and the center said landslides were possible in the southern Appalachian mountains.

The Weather Underground predicted the storm would pass near Daytona Beach and go into the Atlantic before veering back ashore in South Carolina on Friday.

The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all preemptively declared states of emergency.

CUBA

No deaths have officially been reported in the United States from Ian, but a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West. 

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 people and managed to find three survivors about two miles south of the Florida Keys, officials said. 

Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 20 remaining migrants.    

The storm previously tore into Cuba, killing two people and bringing down the country’s electrical grid.

CUBA: A man repairs a traffic light in Havana as the rebuilding of the city continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

CUBA: A man repairs a traffic light in Havana as the rebuilding of the city continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

CUBA: Tobacco farm owner Maritza Carpio cries next to her husband Ramon Martinez while looking at their destroyed tobacco house after the passage of Hurricane Ian in San Luis, Cuba

CUBA: Tobacco farm owner Maritza Carpio cries next to her husband Ramon Martinez while looking at their destroyed tobacco house after the passage of Hurricane Ian in San Luis, Cuba

CUBA:  Young Cuban soldiers prepare to clean a park in Havana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

CUBA:  Young Cuban soldiers prepare to clean a park in Havana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

CUBA: People play in the breaking waves at the Malecon, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba on Wednesday

CUBA: People play in the breaking waves at the Malecon, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba on Wednesday 

Disney, airports and popular attractions in Florida are CLOSED after of Hurricane Ian

Disney:

  • Disney Orlando theme and water parks
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Typhoon Lagoon
  • Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
  • Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf

Airports:

  • Tampa
  • St Pete International
  • Orlando
  • Sarasota Bradenton
  • Fort Lauderdale (delays and cancelations) 

Attractions:

  • Universal Orlando
  • CityWalk
  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • ZooTampa
  • Straz Center
  • Florida Aquarium
  • The Dali Museum
  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
  • Sparkman Wharf
  • Yacht StarShip
  • Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center
  • 11 Waffle House stores
  • Publix in 11 counties

Sports:

  • Lightning preseason postponed
  • Buccaneers relocated to Miami 

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

The hurricane’s eye made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers, with water draining from Tampa Bay as it approached.

More than 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity, with most of the homes and businesses in 12 counties without power.

Streets were turned into rivers, with the storm surge flooding the lower level emergency room of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, while fierce winds tore part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care units.

Water poured in from above onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some of them on ventilators – to other floors.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, 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.  

VENICE

Strong gusts and horizontal rains were still lashing Venice, Florida, a city of about 25,000 residents some 32 miles northwest of where Ian first came ashore at the barrier island of Cayo Costa seven hours earlier.

Larger structures remained mostly intact, but small, residential areas off of Highway 41, a major artery through the area, were left in a shambles.

Downed trees and power lines covered roadways to the point that the asphalt was not visible, roofs were ripped off of some homes, and water was pouring into neighborhoods from seemingly all directions.

A large open lot in front of a Winn Dixie grocery store became a lake, with white-capping waters reaching the trunks of some the cars parked there. Power was out in larger swaths of the area, with communications nearly impossible in many spots.

DeSantis said Ian had generated life-threatening storm surges – waves of wind-driven seawater rushing in along the coast – of up to 12 feet in some places. Forecasters also warned of intense thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

‘This is a storm that we will talk about for many years to come, an historic event,’ said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service.

By comparison, Hurricane Michael came ashore in Florida’s panhandle in 2018 with steady winds of 155 mph, while Ida last year packed sustained winds of 150 mph when it landed in Louisiana.

Even as Ian lashed the coast before it finally swept ashore, authorities warned residents it was too late for anyone who had yet to evacuate to safely do so. Earlier this week, more than 2.5 million residents had been told to evacuate.

Many mobile home residents took refuge in local schools and other facilities converted to emergency shelters. The area’s numerous assisted-living facilities were mostly evacuated, too.

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