Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” on Thursday that hurricane Ian came into the county strong and slow-moving, at just a few miles per hour. However, the sheriff added that “it hit us, and it crushed us!”
Marceno also said that the authorities are “assessing” damages to life and property right now. He said officials are responding to events like drownings, but they are unsure of the exact details because they are “just starting to scratch the surface.” As of right now, thousands of people are waiting to be rescued, but he cannot make a more specific assessment of the number of deaths until officials are able to have full access to each scene, according to a report by The Hill.
Ian, which has now weakened to a tropical storm, made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon, bringing powerful Category 4 hurricane-strength winds, rain, and surge to the doorsteps of millions. Many coastal communities remained under several inches of floodwater on Thursday and many more were left without electricity.
He said the special operations unit that was formed is unable to get to many in need as waterways and bridges remain compromised. He said some rescue and recovery efforts have begun and the state is uniting to use its resources to get through the storm. Marceno said authorities have made some rescues through waterways and have received thousands of calls through 911 for assistance, which they are answering.
“The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that was done has been historic,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press briefing on Thursday morning according to a report by WFLA. The governor said teams were deployed throughout the region Thursday morning to begin rescue efforts. No official death toll was stated during the briefing, but the governor did clarify a comment made by the Lee County sheriff who said there were likely hundreds of fatalities.
“None of that is confirmed. I think what that is, is there were 911 calls for people saying, ‘hey, the water is rising in my home, I’m going to go up in the attic but I’m really worried,” DeSantis said. “Of course, those folks are now going to be checked on and I think you’ll have more clarity about that in the next day or so as they’re able to go to those locations to determine whether people need services or are able to be rescued.”