October 4, 2022 Hurricane Ian's aftermath in Florida

By Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 3:10 PM ET, Wed October 5, 2022
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8:18 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Mike Verdream remembered as a giving person who was always helping others

From CNN’s David Williams 

Mike Verdream
Mike Verdream (Family handout)

Mike Verdream decided to ride out Hurricane Ian in Matlacha — a tiny island between Pine Island and the southwest Florida mainland — and planned to go to his boss’ two-story home if things got too bad, his niece told CNN.

Stacy Verdream said she spoke with her uncle briefly on Wednesday, the day the Category 4 storm crashed ashore. Her cousin spoke with him later that day and he said the water was 4 feet deep before telling her he had to go.

“It was a very brief call because he said he was very scared and she'd never heard him like that because he wasn't that type of person. He's always put on a brave face,” Verdream said. “But she said, he sounded absolutely terrified.”

On Monday, the sheriff’s office informed her brother that Verdream had died — and on Tuesday a detective told Verdream that her uncle's remains were found Friday in a canal.

Authorities used medical records to identify him, Verdream said, and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. 

Verdream said her uncle was a very giving person.

“He would give you the shirt off his back, the last dime he had if someone was in need,” she said. “Always worried about helping other people and not himself.”

Her uncle had moved in with her family after her father died when she was young, she said.

“He was always there for me growing up, teaching me how to drive and taking me to the fair,” she said. “The cool uncle that would buy me like a dirt bike and bought the jet ski for us to, like, go out on the lake.”

He also was an amazing cook and could whip up a delicacy of a meal even when it seemed like the kitchen was empty.

“He’s just funny and goofy and very smart,” she added.

7:18 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

It's going to be emotional for Sanibel residents who return to the island Wednesday, city manager says

CNN’s Amanda Musa

A half submerged boat is seen on Sanibel Island, Florida, on October 1.
A half submerged boat is seen on Sanibel Island, Florida, on October 1. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Residents who plan to return to view their homes on Sanibel Island on Wednesday will be in for quite a shock after Hurricane Ian leveled much of the southwest Florida barrier island.

Dana Souza, the city manager, said it's going to be an emotional day for many residents, who will be permitted to visit the barrier island tomorrow. Sanibel's infrastructure is devastated, he said, adding that most of the poles and transmission lines are still down.

“It is going to be emotional when they see their properties up close and the amount of damage that this storm inflicted upon them,” Souza told CNN.

He noted that while the year-round population is about 7,000 people, it grows to 35,000 during the high season which is about a month away. But because many businesses will not be able to open, he anticipates the island will also be impacted economically.

"It will be some time before we can resume normal life on Sanibel," Souza added. 

6:22 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers set to reopen Wednesday

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar 

The airport in hard-hit Fort Myers — Southwest Florida International Airport — will reopen on Wednesday for limited commercial flight operations, the Lee County Port Authority said in a statement.

Travelers are being asked to use caution and to give themselves extra time to get to the airport due to the effects of Hurricane Ian, which clobbered the region as a Category 4 storm last week.  

RSW will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with flights operating between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., it said.

6:00 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Charlotte County public schools to stay closed until further notice, official says

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Amanda Watts 

Charlotte County public schools will be closed until further notice, according to Public Information Officer Mike Riley.

Riley said that several of the 22 schools were damaged by Hurricane Ian, which battered the southwest Florida county last week. As of late Tuesday, more than half of utility customers in the county were still without power, according to Poweroutage.us.

The district is having all the buildings inspected to make sure everything is safe before students and staff return, he said.

“The storm lasted here for over 12 hours, just hammering away. Nothing is safe right now,” Riley added.

There are about 16,000 students and 2,200 employees in the district, he said. 

5:39 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Around 400,000 customers still without power in Florida

From CNN’s Amanda Musa

Around 400,000 customers in Florida remain without power as of Tuesday evening, according to PowerOutage.us.

After Hurricane Ian made landfall last week in southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm, about 2.5 million outages were reported.

The worst-hit areas are Lee County, with 208,263 outages, and Charlotte County, with 75,721 customers without power.

Outages also continue to be tracked in Sarasota, Manatee, Collier, Hendry, Hardee and DeSoto counties.

Track outages here:

4:23 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Command and control centers to be set up on Florida barrier islands, state official says

From CNN's Amanda Musa

Command and control coordination centers will be set up at barrier islands in southwest Florida, Department of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Tuesday.

The centers will be set up on Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, Captiva Island, North Captiva Island, Cayo Costa, Boca Chita, Cabbage Key and Useppa Island.

“We’re talking right now to Sanibel Island local government officials to ensure that they want us to do that,” Guthrie said during a news conference Tuesday in Fort Myers. “That’s the only one that we haven’t actually been able to contact, but we’re confident that we’re gonna be able to do the exact same thing on Sanibel Island.” 

Meanwhile, more than 200,000 people have applied for FEMA assistance and more people are expected to be registered at a Disaster Recovery Center in Fort Myers, Guthrie said.

4:10 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

DeSantis says he will likely visit Sanibel Island on Wednesday

From CNN’s Amanda Musa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida on September 25.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida on September 25. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat/AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will likely visit Sanibel Island on Wednesday, a week after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Ian.

DeSantis said he visited nearby Pine Island — where a major bridge has cut off access to the barrier island — on Tuesday.

“We’re gonna have that bridge patched this week,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Fort Myers. “Yesterday we had 130 FDOT trucks that were there working to get this temporary bridge fixed. It will be done this week.”

DeSantis said he has requested a bid for a contractor to assess damage to the main bridge leading to Sanibel Island.

“I’ve not been on the ground… I’m probably gonna go tomorrow,” DeSantis said. “It’s going to require a little bit more TLC than what’s happened on Pine Island.”

City of Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith told CNN on Tuesday that residents will be allowed back on Wednesday to assess the damage to their property, but the island is still "extremely unsafe.”

 

4:08 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

More than 2,100 people have been rescued by National Guard hurricane operations

From CNN's Michael Conte

A state trooper and national guardsman work together near flooding from the Peace River on October 4 in Arcadia, Florida. 
A state trooper and national guardsman work together near flooding from the Peace River on October 4 in Arcadia, Florida.  (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

The National Guard has rescued more than 2,100 people and 50 pets as part of its Hurricane Ian recovery operations, according to the Defense Department.

“Guard soldiers and airmen are providing route clearing, sustainment support, logistics, security, satellite communications, search and rescue, 32 commodities distribution sites, shelter support to FEMA and other local first responders,” said Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a news briefing. 

Ryder said that the Guard had “more than 5,198 soldiers and airmen on state active duty from Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Washington, Georgia and Montana.”

“National Guard support to hurricane recovery efforts in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have concluded, but 65 Virginian Army Guard soldiers and three helicopters remain activated in state active duty status for potential high water missions in southeast Virginia,” Ryder said.

3:12 p.m. ET, October 4, 2022

Rescue crews find boats washed up deep in the mangroves of Sanibel Island — and it's not easy to reach them

From CNN's Leyla Santiago and Melissa Alonso 

(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)
(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)

Boats are washed in "about 50 to 100 yards in the mangroves" on Sanibel Island, and it's a challenge to reach them to make sure there are no people in the vessels, according to an emergency rescue worker.

"It's very difficult to enter and search the boats," Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4 rescue specialist Percy Del Aguila told CNN's Leyla Santiago.

"The hardest part has been when we approach the boats, you're waiting and hoping the people who may be in there are OK," said the Orlando-based rescue worker. 

"It's difficult to be looking at people's things that are littered all over, where they shouldn't be," said Del Aguila. "It's weird, finding boats where they shouldn't be, and looking at people's property when they have lost everything."

Many of the vessels are in areas that are inaccessible, according to Matt Jaynes, rescue team manager with Task Force 4.

(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)
(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)

"We're taking smaller boats that we can to get back into these backwater areas and then climbing through the mangroves with aerial recon to get to these targeted vessels that are back there" to search and make sure they are clear, Jaynes said.

According to Jaynes, "there's a large population of commercial shrimp vessels and mooring fields, where people live on sailboats and cabin cruisers year-round," and many people decided to ride out the storm on their vessels. 

"We have a large amount of boats deep in the woods that would normally have people on, so we're having to go along and find ... which ones have been locked and secured," Jaynes told Santiago.

Jaynes said the team has found some surprises.

"We did run into a gentleman that did ride out the entire storm on his sailboat. He is about 50 feet into the mangroves, sitting probably 15 to 18 feet in the air on top of them. And he has a kayak and means of getting back and forth. He's perfectly content. And he's going back and forth getting his supplies and figuring his life out. So we just found him sitting there; he was smoking a cigarette and on his cell phone," he told CNN.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Task Force 4 said it continues to conduct search and rescue operations in Fort Myers as well.

"After conducting operations in Matlacha and Punta Gorda, we are focusing our efforts on vessels stranded in and around Matanzas Harbor and Matanzas Pass" in a joint effort with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the task force added. 

(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)
(Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4)