Frustrations mount as Hurricane Ian's effects linger
People stand on the destroyed bridge to Pine Island as they view the damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Matlacha, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. The only bridge to the island is heavily damaged so it can only be reached by boat or air. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and MIKE SCHNEIDER
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Days after the skies cleared and the winds died down in Florida, Hurricane Ian's effects persisted Monday, as people faced another week without power and others were being rescued from homes inundated with lingering floodwaters.
Frustrations mounted in the path the storm cut through Florida, and the hurricane's remnants, now a nor'easter, weren't done with the U.S.
The mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts were getting flooding rains. Forecasters said the storm's onshore winds could pile even more water into an already inundated Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in more than a decade.
Norfolk and Virginia Beach declared states of emergency as they watched to see how bad Monday's tides would be. Coastal flooding was possible from North Carolina's Outer Banks to Long Island, the National Weather Service said.
At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba since Ian made its first landfall on the Caribbean island on Sept. 27 and in Florida a day later.
Search and rescue efforts were still ongoing Monday in Florida. More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida’s emergency management agency.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy told NBC’s “Today Show” that residents who evacuated were largely being kept away from their homes because of searches likely to last a few more days.
Washed-out bridges to barrier islands, flooded roadways, isolated cellphone service and a lack of water, electricity or the internet left hundreds of thousands still isolated. The situation in many areas wasn't expected to improve for several days because waterways were overflowing, leaving the rain that fell with nowhere to go.
In DeSoto County, northeast of Fort Myers, the Peace River and tributaries reached record high levels.
Many residents in the rural county of about 37,000 people could only be reached by boat. What roads remained above water were blocked, according to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, which was assisting with the efforts.
“Right now we working on creating teams to help find stranded residents and we are dispatching ATVs to help get rid of debris on roadways that were impossible to travel over," deputies wrote in a Facebook post.
In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned waders, boots and bug spray to paddle to their flooded homes Sunday.
Ben Bertat found 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water in his house by Lake Harney after kayaking there.
“I think it’s going to get worse because all of this water has to get to the lake” said Bertat, pointing to the water flooding a nearby road. “With ground saturation, all this swamp is full and it just can’t take any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s getting any lower.”
About 600,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity on Monday morning, down from a peak of 2.6 million. But hat is still nearly the same amount of customers in all of Rhode Island.
The current goal is to restore power by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Monday. It does not include homes or areas where infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.
In Virginia, the U.S. Navy postponed the first-ever deployment of the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, the nation’s most advanced aircraft carrier, according to a statement from the Navy’s 2nd Fleet. The carrier and other U.S. ships were scheduled to leave Norfolk on Monday for training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean with vessels from other NATO Countries.
Coast Guard, municipal and private crews have been using helicopters, boats and even Jet Skis to evacuate people over the past several days.
After moving across Florida, Ian made another landfall in the U.S. in South Carolina as a much weaker hurricane. Officials said Monday that crews were finishing removing sand from coastal roads and nearly all power had been restored.
Associated Press reporters Rebecca Santana in Fort Myers; Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee; David Fischer in Miami; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia.; Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.
For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: apnews.com/hub/hurricanes