'Their lives are never going to be the same': Floridians begin difficult task of recovering from Ian
As the shock wears off, southwest Floridians are salvaging whatever they can from ruined homes. They're struggling to figure out what comes next.
FORT MYERS, Fla. – A dishwasher, a car title with no car, closet shelves – those are just a few of the belongings lining a street in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
Hurricane Ian and a 7-to-12-foot storm surge pulled down walls and sent cars floating down the street a little more than a week ago.
Residents work against time to pull soaked belongings out of their homes before mold grows. Sofas, carpets and wall boards not dried out within 24-48 hours can become moldy which continues to destroy materials long after the storm and triggers short- and long-term health risks, according to the Collier County Government.
FOX Weather's Robert Ray toured the devastation in southwest Florida walking streets left in ruin and talking to survivors.
Ray said he came upon the shell of a home, and in front was a pile of belongings that were once inside.
"I talked to the owner just a few minutes ago, and I asked him, ‘What is next?’" Ray said. "And he broke down and said, ‘I really don't know. I don't have an answer.’"
Michael Snyder’s trailer made it, keeping his wife and six kids sheltered, but he said the yard and neighborhood looks more like a war zone.
"I have been through Charley, Irma – every hurricane that came through here – and this is legitimately the one that I'm questioning whether or not I'm ever going to stay here," Snyder said.
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Many barrier islands still closed
Residents of Fort Myers Beach can’t even get onto the barrier island to salvage what they own yet as search and rescue crews continue going door-to-door.
First responders set out by boat with rescue crews and cadaver dogs while the Coast Guard airdropped crew members onto piles of debris that used to be homes to dig through the rubble and find survivors and victims.
FOX New’s Nate Foy told FOX Weather on Wednesday that rescuers pulled 40 people off Fort Myers Beach alive, but they have also found bodies. Rescuers only have bottled water, generators for electricity and tents for homes. Foy said a complete search could take days to complete.
A boat captain and hurricane survivor Ray spoke to fears the number of deceased will rise.
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"I think the number of dead is going to be far greater than what they're talking about right now," said Rick Goodwin, a charter captain in Fort Myers Beach.
The charter business includes 16 captains and 12 of them lost their boats. He still considers himself lucky to be alive though.
"This is a family here, and you've got captains here that have been on boats for 43 years," Goodwin said of his neighbors in the marina. "This is the only thing that they know but their boats are over in the mangroves now."
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Fort Myers changed forever
"Their lives are never going to be the same again," said Lori Arnold, a Red Cross spokesperson.
Arnold has been setting up shelters for those who lost their homes.
"Absolute unrecognizable damage to beautiful homes, beautiful neighborhoods, mobile home parks, and retirees on fixed incomes," Arnold said. "The storm has affected everybody in just absolutely changeable ways."
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Ray said so many are just getting over the shock of the disaster and ruin. They are beginning the slow journey of salvaging what they can and facing hard choices, rebuild or move on.