October 3, 2022 Ian recovery efforts continue as death toll rises

By Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 9:58 PM ET, Mon October 3, 2022
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6:15 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Power may not be restored to Fort Myers Beach for a month, county manager says

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

Jose Ramirez, a resident of the San Carlos Island mobile home park, washes dishes using a flashlight in his home in Fort Myers Beach.
Jose Ramirez, a resident of the San Carlos Island mobile home park, washes dishes using a flashlight in his home in Fort Myers Beach. (Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Power may not be restored in Fort Myers Beach for at least a month after Hurricane Ian destroyed the electrical infrastructure, according to Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais.

Officials cannot keep people from returning to their homes, but it isn't safe because of the widespread damage as well as the lack of water and electricity, Desjarlais told a news conference Monday.

Statewide, more than 500,000 customers remain without power, according to PowerOutage.Us.

The county is still unsure of the number of people who are missing and that the search and rescue efforts will continue, Desjarlais said, adding that the death toll is uncertain but that the medical examiner will be releasing information in the coming days. 

When a reporter asked him about whether or not residents were given enough time to evacuate, he said the county made the decision to evacuate at the earliest time possible. 

 “It's unfortunate that so many people chose not to evacuate. You know, I think I told you the other day we had room for 40,000 people in our shelters, but only 4000 showed up — which means that people made the conscious choice not to evacuate, and it is regretful and you know, no one feels worse than we do about all that. But, based on all of the conditions at the time I wouldn't change a thing.”

Fort Myers Beach is located on Estero Island in southwest Florida and has a population of around 5,600 people, according to the US Census.

Fort Myers Beach councilmember Dan Allers last week estimated that 90% of the island buildings were gone, including businesses that had been there for decades and had weathered several hurricanes.

"When I say gone, it's not just the insides of the houses — it's brick homes, it's houses that were on stilts, wood homes," Allers told CNN. "It's gone."

5:08 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Hurricane Ian could put a dent in US GDP growth

From CNN's Alicia Wallace

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian likely caused more than $50 billion in damages — and also dinged overall US economic output, economists say.

Initial damages from the deadly storm are estimated to be in the range of $45 billion to $55 billion in Florida and at least several billion dollars in South Carolina, according to Laura Ratz, an economist with Moody's Analytics.

"So far, it looks like Hurricane Ian is on track to rank among the more costly natural disasters of recent years," Ratz wrote in a note late last week.

The hurricane's impact on local municipalities in Florida and South Carolina is so severe that it is expected to slash third-quarter economic growth in those states by 3 percentage points and 2 percentage points, respectively, according to Oxford Economics.

What's more, the storm also stands to take a bite out of national gross domestic product growth in the near term.

Gregory Daco, chief economist with EY Parthenon, projected Hurricane Ian could have a -0.3 percentage point impact on third-quarter GDP and bring down fourth-quarter GDP by 0.1 percentage points. Taking Ian's estimated impact into account, Daco now projects GDP growth of 1.7% in the third quarter and a contraction of 1.4% in the fourth quarter.

"You have power outages, you have flight cancellations, you have disruptions to energy extraction and refinement, you have disruptions to crops — all of those are part of normal economic activity," Daco said.

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4:21 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Bonita Springs first responders rescued more than 100 people from worst-hit areas, assistant fire chief says

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

Bonita Springs Fire Department crews rescued more than 100 people from the worst-hit areas of the beach community in southwest Florida, according to the assistant chief.

Crews have completed primary and secondary searches, concentrated on Black Island, Hickory Island and the Imperial River Preserve area, Assistant Chief Jason Brod said at a news conference Monday. "We've rescued over 100 people from those areas at this time,” he said.

Power lines remain down across the city, according to City Manager Arlene Hunter, who said that cooling and charging stations will open Tuesday at the Bonita Springs Recreation center for residents.

She said that the beaches remain closed and that the city is working hard to assemble a way for residents to make a safe return home. 

Hunter also advised residents who live near canals and rivers to pay attention to water levels. 

Sheet flow, which is a natural phenomenon, can occur after a hurricane, and cause rivers and canals to rise,” she said.

Bonita Springs, which is in Lee County, has a population of around 55,000 people, according to the US Census.

3:53 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Biden announces $60 million in funding to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona

President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden and Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, left, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, right, delivers remarks on Hurricane Fiona in Ponce, Puerto Rico on Monday.
President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden and Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, left, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, right, delivers remarks on Hurricane Fiona in Ponce, Puerto Rico on Monday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Joe Biden announced $60 million in funding to help Puerto Rico rebuild, weeks after Hurricane Fiona ravaged the US territory.

Announcing the investment in Ponce, the President said on Monday the money will help coastal areas "become better prepared for the storm." One example is to create a flood warning system to improve levees and flood walls.

The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.

"We know that the climate crisis and more extreme weather is going to continue to hit this island and hit the United States overall," Biden said. "As we rebuild, we have to ensure that we build it to last."

Biden said his administration is particularly focused on the power grid in Puerto Rico. To date, the island has received $4 million to make the power grid "more resilient," according to the President.

Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on Sept. 21, a White House fact sheet said, and over 1,000 federal response workers were on the ground providing support with over 450 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard activated.

3:26 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Florida hospitals experiencing "significant pressure" on capacity, state hospital association CEO says

From CNN Health’s Carma Hassan

Hospitals in southwest Florida worked to reestablish reliable access to water supply and coordinated patient transfers over the weekend, Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, told CNN on Monday.

About 200 patients are affected by the complete evacuation of two hospitals in Sarasota and Charlotte Counties. The hospital in Sarasota County expects to reopen this week and be able to bring back patients. The second hospital had its roof blown off, so it will take longer for repairs.

Lee Health in Lee County has stopped triaging and transferring patients because water pressure has been restored. 

But hospitals are still continuing to face challenges, Mayhew said.

“The hospitals are experiencing significant pressure on their capacity. Partly because you also have some of the freestanding emergency departments that did sustain damage. Some of those have been closed. So that's putting increased pressure on other hospital emergency departments. When patients can't be timely discharged, that obviously adds to the pressure within the hospital and the lack of available beds,” she said, adding that “some of the transfers that have been occurring out of the area are attributable to lack of capacity.”

Some more context: Hospitals don’t typically discharge patients who don’t have a place to go, whether their homes were damaged in the storm or their nursing homes were evacuated and temporarily closed.

An update on the number of staffed hospital beds available in the state was not immediately available.

Staffing is also impacted because many hospital workers have been displaced or lost their vehicles in the hurricane.

3:16 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Earlier evacuation notice for Lee County would have made no difference, Fort Myers mayor says

From CNN’s Amanda Musa


Betsy Hayward and her husband John Riili try to salvage their belongings from their RV mobile home in the Port Carlos Cove community located across from Fort Myers Beach on September 30.
Betsy Hayward and her husband John Riili try to salvage their belongings from their RV mobile home in the Port Carlos Cove community located across from Fort Myers Beach on September 30. (The Washington Post/Getty Images)

As Lee County officials face criticism for not issuing an evacuation order for residents earlier than a day ahead of time, the mayor of Fort Myers says he doesn't think “it would have made a difference" because officials start pushing hurricane awareness in June.

“The most predictable thing about a hurricane is that it's unpredictable. So, until people learn to follow the advisory, to plan, not wait until it's too late, that's what will save lives,” Mayor Kevin Anderson told CNN.

Anderson insisted that it is up to residents to plan accordingly when a storm is expected to impact the area.

At least 54 people are dead in Lee County, Florida – where Fort Myers is located – following Hurricane Ian. However, the city itself has not reported any Ian-related fatalities.

“Most of the devastation is about 15 miles south of Fort Myers, in Fort Myers Beach, in the barrier island,” Anderson told CNN on Monday. “In the city itself, we were fortunate, we have no reported deaths related to the hurricane.”

About 75% of the City of Fort Myers has electricity, and running water is becoming more available, he said. “The recovery is all underway, businesses are starting to reopen, and downtown Fort Myers is very active right now.”

2:19 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Charlotte County death toll climbs to 24

From CNN's Devon Sayers and Michelle Watson 

At least 24 people have died in Charlotte County, Florida, as a result of Hurricane Ian, according to an official with the sheriff's office.

CNN previously reported 12 deaths in Charlotte County. This brings CNN's tally of Hurricane Ian-related deaths in the US to 104.  

The county deaths are a mix of direct and indirect deaths due to Hurricane Ian, with 23 in the county and one in Punta Gorda, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Claudette Smith told CNN.

3:15 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Fort Myers Beach authorities urged residents not to wait for Lee County orders to evacuate

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

Damaged homes and debris are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Thursday.
Damaged homes and debris are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Thursday. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

The town of Fort Myers Beach encouraged residents on Monday – two days before Hurricane Ian made landfall — to evacuate if they lived in a high-risk flood zone, despite the fact that Lee County held off on an official announcement until Tuesday.

Officials in Lee County, where Fort Myers Beach is located, have come under fire after they issued their evacuation orders less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s southwest coast – a day later than several neighboring counties.  

The morning of Sept. 26, Fort Myers Beach said the storm has strengthened and urged high-risk residents to evacuate. “If you live in a home with a high risk of flooding (ground level) or damage (mobile/manufactured) it is recommended that you implement a plan to ride out the storm in an elevated, secure, off-island structure.”

On the evening of Sept. 26, Fort Myers Beach said, “We have learned that Lee County plans to wait until the 5 a.m. forecast tomorrow to make a decision about whether or not to announce ordered evacuations in high risk zones,” it said, and noted that since Fort Myers Beach is in the highest risk zone. “We want to encourage any residents who have been making plans to leave the Island tomorrow to consider leaving sooner and get an early start.”

2:14 p.m. ET, October 3, 2022

Hurricane Ian-related death toll increases to more than 100  

From CNN's Devon Sayers and Michelle Watson  

CNN is reporting at least 104 total deaths from Ian on Monday.

That includes at least 100 deaths in Florida, with more than 50 reported in Lee County.

At least 24 people have died in Charlotte County, according to Claudette Smith with the sheriff's office. Smith told CNN that the figure is a mix of direct and indirect deaths as a result of hurricane Ian.

Additionally, four storm-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina, according to a statement from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.