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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11:31 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Orange County emergency teams are making rescues in "waist-deep" water

rom CNN's Carol A

(Orange County Sheriff's Office)
(Orange County Sheriff's Office)

The Orange County Sheriff's Office Emergency Response Team is making rescues after Hurricane Ian caused flooding and damage to the area.

“Water is at least waist deep in Orlo Vista," according to the sheriff's office. The community is outside Orlando.

(Orange County Sheriff's Office)
(Orange County Sheriff's Office)

"When the OCSO Emergency Response Team goes out after a major storm, they ride in our High-Water Rescue Vehicle. This vehicle can safely drive through large pools of water and over storm debris," it said.

(Orange County Sheriff's Office)
(Orange County Sheriff's Office)

(Orange County Sheriff's Office)
(Orange County Sheriff's Office)
11:30 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Charlotte County is "cautiously optimistic" that the worst-case scenario did not come true 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

Debris litters a street in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, which is located in Charlotte County, Florida, on Thursday.
Debris litters a street in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, which is located in Charlotte County, Florida, on Thursday. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the worst-case scenario that was forecast did not come true,” Patrick Fuller, Charlotte County Emergency Management Director told members of the media Thursday. “But there is damage throughout the county that we are continuing to assess.”

“It’ll be some time before the full scope of damage is known,” he added. 

Charlotte County is just north of Fort Myers and Lee County, which took landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Ian. 

Fuller said he thinks the slight track shift before landfall spared his county.

“Absolutely no two tropical storms, hurricanes are exactly the same and the impacts felt just short distances can be dramatically different,” Fuller noted.

The sheriff’s office has done flights to understand initial damage. Fuller said there is considerable debris in the roadway, damage to homes, flooding and downed trees and power lines. 

The flights also went over barrier islands in the county, Fuller said. “The integrity of the homes is far better than we anticipated, but we have rescue crews and federal and state assets whose main priority is to ensure that they gain access to those islands."

11:27 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Lee County is carrying out search and rescue efforts amid "catastrophic damage"

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

A helicopter flies over part of Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday.
A helicopter flies over part of Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Lee County, Florida, officials in an update on Thursday said that Urban Search and Rescue crews from local agencies are “actively engaged in search and rescue efforts" after Hurricane Ian.

Teams are "assessing infrastructure and structural damage and intensifying other response and recovery efforts” following the impacts of Ian, which caused “catastrophic damage” throughout the county.

The Florida State Emergency Operations Center is helping expedite rescues, and Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force units will help first responders get to those in need, the county said.

According to the update, 98% of the county is currently without power, and officials expect it will be an “extended power-outage event.” 

Additionally, the county said many utilities are without water and under boil water notices. Residents who are unable to boil water due to lack of power are asked to use bottled water or purify their water first.

Law enforcement and the Lee County Department of Transportation are on scene at the Sanibel Causeway and in the Matlacha area, where the county said “extensive damage” occurred, and bridge inspectors are assessing bridges across the county.

All 15 shelters remain open, and Lee County Emergency Management is working on increasing food and water supplies for those displaced by flooding or structural damage, it said.

11:08 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

A Coast Guard flight shows the destruction and flooding in the Fort Myers area

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

(US Coast Guard)
(US Coast Guard)

Dozens of homes are still underwater and many more buildings are badly damaged in the Fort Myers area this morning, according to new photos released by the US Coast Guard.

In one of the photos, part of what appears to be an entire neighborhood is underwater. In another section, debris covers the ground around homes. 

(US Coast Guard)
(US Coast Guard)

On some buildings, the roofs have been ripped off. In a marina, boats are piled together near what appears to be an oil slick on the water.

The southwest Florida community is among the areas hit hardest by the storm. Coast Guard and National Guard rescue teams pulled people from roofs in flooded neighborhoods Thursday morning. Tens of thousands of people remain without power in the area.

(US Coast Guard)
(US Coast Guard)

11:13 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Ian is "not done creating damage," Florida Gov. DeSantis says  

From CNN’s Maria Cartaya 

(Florida Governor's Office)
(Florida Governor's Office)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called Ian "a 500-year flood event" and said people can expect the storm to continue to have impact across the state as it leaves record-setting flooding hundreds of miles away from where the hurricane made landfall on Wednesday.

“This storm is having broad impacts across the state, and some of the flooding you’re going to see in areas hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records,” he said at Florida's emergency operations center in Tallahassee.

“The impacts of this storm are historic, and the damage that was done has been historic and this is just off initial assessments,” DeSantis added. “We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude. This is going to require years of effort to rebuild and to come back.”

President Biden has approved a “major disaster declaration for nine counties,”  DeSantis said. This includes: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota. It will allow individuals to seek FEMA assistance.

“For those in need of help who qualify, you go to FEMA.gov or you can call 1-800-621-3262,” DeSantis said. “Make sure you take a picture of the waterline in your home because if you can show that, we’re able to get assistance to you faster.” 

The Florida governor also urged caution for residents, saying “this is still a hazardous situation.”

“This thing is not done creating damage,” he added.

11:30 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Restoring power for customers in Fort Myers and Naples will take longer, energy company says

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

Florida Power and Light says restoring power for its customers in Fort Myers and Naples will take longer than in other parts of the state.

About 1.1 millions of the company's customers are without power at the moment, and while restoration has already begun, the severely impacted areas may have to wait longer, said Peter Robbins, a spokesperson for the company.

"We started our restoration work yesterday," he told CNN. "We've already restored about three-quarters of a million customers, but clearly the more impacted areas near Naples and Fort Myers will take longer. We're just now going in there today, doing damage assessments and trying to figure out where we can get our crews to start restoring power."

"We won't stop until every last person is on, but I know our customers are going to need some patience," he added.

The devastation in some areas is hampering the speed of restoration work and makes the process more precarious, Robbins explained.

With hospitals in many areas impacted by Ian, Robbins told CNN that the priority is always power for critical infrastructure.

"We work with all the counties in our service territory before storm season and they prioritize critical infrastructure, like hospitals and 911 centers, and police and fire stations, he said. "We absolutely can work with them to restore those critical pieces of infrastructure first. We're also working simultaneously to restore our customers and people's homes, but we absolutely can work with counties to prioritize certain facilities."

10:49 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

"This is a minute-by-minute situation," Sarasota County official says as reports of damage come in

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

While Hurricane Ian has passed, recovery work and damage assessments have now begun in earnest, according to Jamie Carson, director of communications for Sarasota County government.

“We're asking our community to work together and to check on your neighbor,” she said during a Thursday briefing. “Take this time not to worry about the debris. ... Spend this time with your friends and family. Go check on that neighbor that you're worried about.” 

“For right now, let's just take a breath, let's just take a pause. We've got a lot of work to do,” Carson said. 

Most of the damage is located in the southern areas of the county, she said. 

“We're seeing damage reports across the community on all types of structures. We are aware of some collapses of certain buildings at different locations and we're getting additional reports in. So this is a minute-by-minute situation,” Carson told media. 

In the northern end of the county, Carson said some people are leaving shelters, but she warned the roads are still impacted by debris from Hurricane Ian.

“If you are exiting those evacuation centers, you are literally taking your life into your own hands,” she said. “Because there are power lines down, there are branches and trees down in the roadways there is standing water. We ask that you stay where you are.” 

10:32 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Collier County official urges residents to "sit tight" while damage assessment continues

Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services Director Dan Summers implored people who evacuated during Hurricane Ian to stay in place for now and not go outside to look at any damage to their homes.

"Stay secure. We've got so much assessment left to do. We don't know the status of drainages and canals that are still full. We've got a lot of moving water, a lot of debris, power lines down and so there's so many unknowns, and by all means if you're in a secure location, sit tight," he told CNN's Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.

Collier County includes the city of Naples.

"While we did not have the wind event that our neighbors have had, we certainly had the water event that far exceeded anything that we had during Hurricane Irma," Summers said.

The area has not seen such storm surge "in several generations," he added.

Emergency teams have conducted about 30 rescues, Summers said.

"We are still having some areas with some road closures that we're having a hard time getting into, but we are getting in there either by boat or high-clearance vehicle. There is some good news ... as we see the road flooding begin to recede. Our goal is to complete any of that search and rescue by dark tonight," he said, adding that "it's a very fluid situation."
10:43 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Naples fire-rescue department continues to conduct rescues despite flooding in fire station, chief tells CNN

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn 

Despite flooding inside of the station that rendered several fire trucks inoperable, crews are utilizing other pieces of equipment to conduct welfare checks and rescue missions, Naples Fire-Rescue Department Chief Pete DiMaria told CNN Thursday morning.

Crews have conducted about 20 welfare checks Thursday morning, DiMaria said.

The chief said not all people are accounted for, however, the numbers could be influenced by those who evacuated at the last minute prior to the storm.

The department did receive several calls for help after the storm started, and crews waded several blocks in high surge waters to rescue a couple stuck in their home, he added. 

The fire department housed multiple people that crews rescued overnight, DiMaria told CNN.