September 29, 2022 Hurricane Ian updates

By Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell, Kelly McCleary, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 1:30 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022
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2:41 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

More than 3,000 people in nursing homes evacuated in Florida

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Rescuers evacuate residents from an assisted living facility in Orlando on Thursday.
Rescuers evacuate residents from an assisted living facility in Orlando on Thursday. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

About 40 Florida nursing homes have been evacuated due to Hurricane Ian, according to the Florida Health Care Association.

“As of this morning, there have been about 40 nursing home evacuations, approximately 3400 residents,” spokesperson Kristen Knapp said in an email to CNN. “Most are in the low lying areas where counties have issued evacuation orders, others are in areas where concerns over flooding are occurring.”

The Florida Health Care Association is an advocacy organization representing long-term care providers.   

“Our goal is always to keep our residents and staff safe, so facilities have been working their plans, they have their generators fueled as required by the state of emergency (must have 96 hours worth of fuel within 24 hours of SOE issued per the emergency power plan laws). Providers have been hardening their facilities and stocking their resources for those that are sheltering in place,” Knapp said.

In southwest Florida, approximately 15 to 20 facilities are without power but have generators operating and minimal damage. 

“We are still watching the central/east coast as the storm moves through and the potential for flooding is the most concerning. Facilities will work with their local emergency managers if there are immediate concerns, since all emergencies are local and that is the most effective way to get critical needs met,” Knapp said. 

3:24 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

At least 200 water rescues were conducted in the Orlando area today, first responders say

(CNN)
(CNN)

CNN's Don Lemon joined a group of first responders on a boat conducting water rescues in Orlando — and they said they made dozens of rescues on Thursday.

"At least 200 starting at about 4:30, 5:00 this morning," a lieutenant told the CNN anchor.

One of the challenges during rescues is that they don't always know what's under the water, the lieutenant said.

"Part of the big issues that we had is navigating these waters. Even though we know we're in a neighborhood and you know the streets dictate where we go. You know, we've gotten hidden mailboxes, culverts," he said.

The area where they were operating is prone to flooding, but "this is the highest it's ever been," the lieutenant said.

He added, "It happened about some five years ago and these three lakes, these small lakes, they join together by small canals, they crested sometime early this morning and this whole area here is a super low-lying area, this one and the neighborhood we were at this morning, which was all single-family dwellings, completely devastated, completely under water."

The water was 6-8 feet deep on Thursday, the first responders said.

2:31 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Florida CFO warns about insurance scams

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis cautioned those affected by Hurricane Ian to be wary of insurance scammers.

"The predators ... [will] initially try to sign up construction management contracts, public adjusters. They're going to come in like a bunch of locusts, and they're going to try to hit the neighborhoods, and people are vulnerable right now," Patronis said in Punta Gorda during a briefing with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it is," he said.

"That first phone call that you're going to make needs be to your agent, your carrier, or to my office," he advised people who have suffered damage to their homes.

Patronis said the state will probably have 20 to 25 carriers that will initially be in RVs to give out living expense funding.

3:07 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

A Naples fire station was submerged in water, but the department is still making rescues

Hurricane Ian left a fire station in hard-hit Naples, Florida, submerged in water, but it didn't stop crews from making rescues in the community Thursday, the department's fire chief said.

"It got us quick," Chief Pete DiMaria told CNN, describing the moment storm surge flooded the first responders' base of operations.

Video shows firefighters wading through knee- and waist-deep water in the station's garage, moving around the fire trucks and checking on which equipment still functioned.

"We couldn't get our vehicles out of the station fast enough. We had to shelter in place for a little while," DiMaria said.

The fire chief said emergency calls came to the station while crews were still stuck inside, a frustrating and unnerving experience.

"We all do this job to help our community and when we're hearing people that needed our assistance and not being able to get there — even though we warned them that if you stayed in the evacuation area, we might not be able to get there — it still pulls at us," DiMaria said.
Naples Fire-Rescue Department crews help rescue a stranded motorist in Naples, Florida, on Thursday.
Naples Fire-Rescue Department crews help rescue a stranded motorist in Naples, Florida, on Thursday. (Naples Fire-Rescue Department via AP)

The department eventually got most of its equipment working and sent rescue teams out on the streets to find people in need, including a woman they pulled from a car stuck in floodwater.

"We're certainly back out on the streets and we're serving our community right now. We've completed the majority of our rescues that got backed up from the storm, and right now we're working on some road closures and checking the area for further flooding," DiMaria said.

The fire chief said the storm surge has largely receded and that many roads have now been cleared. The department plans to sweep the streets and check on neighbors again before dark.

2:26 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Ian continues to disrupt air travel as it moves northward

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace

Tropical Storm Ian threatens another blow to air travel as it moves up the east coast and away from the Florida panhandle, where airports are assessing conditions and determining when service can safely resume.

Flight cancelations are about to surpass those of Wednesday — the worst day for US flight cancelations of the last six months, FlightAware data shows Thursday. As of 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, airlines have canceled more than 2,000 flights in the US and have already canceled more than a thousand flights on Friday.

“Tropical storm Ian is moving off of Florida into the Atlantic and is expected to turn northwest and make landfall again in the Carolinas tomorrow,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement, saying passengers should check on the status of their flights with the airlines. 

Here's a look at how some airlines are impacted:

  • American Airlines — which canceled more than 600 flights on Wednesday and another 348 on Thursday — says operations at its fourth largest hub in Miami are recovering.
  • Southwest Airlines, which typically operates a high number of routes to and from Florida airports, canceled more than 525 flights.
  • United Airlines says it has proactively canceled more than 392 flights to and from Florida airports since Tuesday.

Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport anticipates reopening by late Friday, CEO Rick Piccolo told CNN. He watched from his office as the storm pulled apart the airport’s roof. “While we won’t look as pretty as we used to because the ceiling’s all gone, we’ll be functional,” he said.    

Tampa International Airport officials said an inspection Thursday morning “determined TPA did not sustain any serious damage during the storm.” It expects “high passenger volumes” when it reopens at 10 a.m. on Friday. The airport is “very lucky to have come out on the other side of this largely unscathed,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement.  

Melbourne Orlando International Airport – one of the smaller commercial airports in Florida with service from Allegiant, American and Delta — said it plans to reopen Friday morning.

CEO James Parish said Punta Gorda Airport experienced “extensive” damage to hangars at the airport and does not have power in the passenger terminal. Once power is restored, the airport will make plans to restore service from Allegiant Air, he added.

2:21 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

All bridges to Pine Island, Florida, have failed, county official says

From CNN’s Stephanie Gallman

All the bridges to Pine Island, Florida, have failed, meaning the barrier island is inaccessible by car, Lee County manager Roger Desjarlais said during a briefing Thursday afternoon.

There were also five structural failures on the Sanibel causeway because of Hurricane Ian. 

The curfew in Lee County — which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers — that began last night at 6 p.m. ET remains in effect, Desjarlais said.  

Desjarlais participated in a helicopter tour of damage Thursday morning and said the greatest damage the county suffered appears to have occurred on Fort Myers Beach after storm surge levels reached 10 feet. 

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said the area looks like it was hit “by a very large tornado.” He said “there are no words to describe what we got to see,” during the helicopter tour. 

Marceno said his team has been involved in “dozens of rescues made in waist-high water” and he urged residents to stay home.  

“If you don’t have to be out, don’t be out,” Marceno said. 

1:48 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Charlotte County commissioner confirms 6 deaths to CNN

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn 

Six fatalities have been confirmed in Charlotte County, Florida, County Commissioner Chris Constance told CNN Thursday afternoon. 

"Unfortunately, we do have six confirmed fatalities at this time. We have all of our crews out now, assessing damage, doing search and rescue. It's the biggest catastrophe I have ever seen in my lifetime," he told CNN.

Constance did not have any more information to add regarding these people or regarding the number of people still unaccounted for. He did not have information on where in the county the fatalities were reported.

Constance said four shelters had to be evacuated due to structural damage sustained during Hurricane Ian and there is no running water in much of the county.

6:40 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Biden says relief efforts will continue for Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico: "I am committed to you"

(Oliver Contreras/AFP via Getty Images)
(Oliver Contreras/AFP via Getty Images)

As the federal government pours resources into the emergency response in Florida, President Joe Biden said his administration has not forgotten the victims of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.

"While we're seeing the devastating images in Florida, I want to be clear, to the people of Puerto Rico: We're not gone away," Biden said during remarks on Tropical Storm Ian at FEMA's headquarters Thursday. 

"I am committed to you and the recovery of the island. We'll stand by you for however long it takes to get it done," he added.

Biden said the federal government is working around the clock to get people to safety and restore power, water and phone lines across the island.

The President also said, when asked, that it’s his “intention,” to visit Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 18, dropping record rainfall, unleashing landslides and mudslides, flooding neighborhoods and leaving most of the island without power or water.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday approved a federal waiver opening up the potential for additional diesel to be shipped to Puerto Rico.

CNN's Ray Sanchez, Jasmine Wright and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.

1:49 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Tampa Bay Buccaneers announce Sunday night's game will be played at home

From CNN's David Close

Sunday night's NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be played as scheduled in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Following the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the Buccaneers released a statement on Thursday confirming the game would not be moved out of Florida.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the many thousands in the Southwest Florida region who have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian. We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm," the statement reads.

"We have informed the NFL, after consulting with local and state agencies, that we are ready to play Sunday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium as originally scheduled

The game is slated to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET.

"We would like to thank all of the local government agencies and the thousands of emergency personnel who worked tirelessly over the past few days to ensure that our area would be ready to respond if needed. We would also like to acknowledge the Miami Dolphins organization for their assistance and hospitality in allowing us to use their practice facilities this week," the statement read.

The Bucs gave appreciation to those who have been helping the cause following Hurricane Ian.

"We also want to express our sincere appreciation to the first responders and emergency personnel who are already battling the elements, saving lives, and helping our neighbors in those most impacted areas to our south," they said.

On Wednesday, the NFL's executive vice president Jeff Miller said that if the game needed to be moved, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis would host as the contingency site.