SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. – Walls and roofs were peeled away from many homes on Sanibel Island, leaving behind a skeleton of a community that was once considered paradise.
Sanibel Island, which is part of Lee County in southwestern Florida, was one of the communities that were hardest-hit by Ian. Powerful winds and up to 15 feet of storm surge swept over the tiny island, leaving behind a trail of wreckage and debris.
"You can see just debris piles that go on for miles and the dozens of homes that no longer look like their homes," said FOX Weather field correspondent Nicole Valdes, as she flew over the island in a helicopter with Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.
Marceno and his fellow law enforcement officers have been working on Sanibel to find residents who stayed on the island during the storm.
According to Valdes, more than 900 people have been rescued, and search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
"During these times you see everyone come together and help everyone, it really hits you in the heart again," said Marceno.
He added that the rescue situation is unique, as the island is now only accessible by ferry or aircraft. In addition to damaging homes and businesses of Sanibel, Ian also destroyed the causeway that connected the island to mainland Florida.
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But standing amidst the rubble of Sanibel Island was the Sanibel Lighthouse, quietly rising above the horizon that saw chaos just one week ago.
"To see that still standing, despite the damage it did sustain during the storm, it is an incredible sight, and it really has fueled a lot of the hope for those people in southwest Florida," Valdes said.
"The great state of Florida and the great county of Lee will move forward stronger than ever," Marceno stated.