FORT MYERS, Fla (WSVN) — Lives and livelihoods have been swept away by the storm surge in Fort Myers.
On Thursday, people were in shock and awe as daylight hit and saw the destruction, but on Friday, this part of the Gulf Coast is realizing the road ahead will be full of challenges.
“We’re alive. It’s a lot better than a lot of people,” Christina Courtney said.
Courtney said her Fort Myers home is now a total loss.
“There is nowhere to move,” she said.
When asked what she will do to get through the next few months, she said, “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Everything she owns is now soaking wet.
Courtney lives nowhere near the beach, yet Hurricane Ian was so powerful that a storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico made it here too.
“The surge came up so fast, I couldn’t get out,” Adam Gurley said.
Down the street, Gurley told 7News that while the storm surge rushed in, he started punching a hole into the ceiling. He was preparing to climb to the roof to escape the incoming water.
But ultimately, a boat the surge knocked up against his home allowed him to escape.
Business owners like Bob Liesure were also overwhelmed on Friday.
There was damage left on a marina he owns, which will cost him millions in losses.
Millions more in potential income has also been lost with this tourist destination now left tattered and torn by Ian.
“We all went through Charly and Irma. That cut down things for two or three weeks. That was bad. This is worse,” said a victim.
Hurricane Ian left many buildings on the west coast of Florida flattened with winds that reached at least 150 mph.
Many more residents of Fort Myers Beach were devastated to see the aftermath of the storm.
“It’s just sand and debris everywhere,” said local resident Scott Carlos.
The once-island oasis has become unrecognizable to those who lived in the area.
Carlos endured the storm from his beachfront condominium.
“There was 10-foot swells that were going against the houses across the street, breaking through the roof as the waves crashed. It was crazy,” said Carlos.
Carlos was not the only person to see the wallowing walls of water.
“We watched roofs and buildings just get knocked down. Cars floating down the road. It was a crazy sight,” said Matthew Boyd, another resident who lived by the ocean.
“We saw cars — my car floated away, so I have no car now,” said Mary Stephanic.
The Times Square district of the beach was reduced to rubble as video footage showed the wreckage.
Streams of first responders, many from South Florida, filled the streets instead of bustling traffic on Friday morning.
Rescue crews continued to search for trapped residents through homes and hotels that are still standing.
Damage is widespread on the mainland as well.
Abdur Mohammed lives in downtown Fort Myers and he attempted to save his SUV, but the storm surge destroyed it.
“I had to swim back to my building,” said Mohammed.
He believed his car drifted hundreds of yards away from his apartment complex.
At the city docks, boats were sunken and yachts were left smoking.
Some people were grateful to be alive after the severe weather swept through.
“Very, very fortunate — I survived,” said one sailor.
Others were heartbroken to see their community reduced to almost nothing.
Laurie Carroll, another resident of Fort Myers, was almost in tears when asked about the condition her city is in.
“It’s gone, it’s gone,” she said as she held back tears, expressing her devastation at the damage.
Several agencies are still working to help the residents of Fort Myers Beach.
So many homes and businesses now need to be rebuilt here from the ground up.
But at least one bright spot is that some hardware and grocery stores are now reopen– not many of them, but at least some and any shred of good news is something to celebrate.
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