More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without power nearly a week after Hurricane Ian struck the southeastern U.S. state and left a trail of destruction and devastation.
Ian struck Florida September 28 as a dangerous Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometers an hour, and left more than two million customers across the state without power. Officials with utility companies say it will likely be Friday or Saturday before electricity is restored to at least 95% of its customers.
More than 1,500 people have been rescued as search and rescue crews engage in a painstaking door-to-door search for victims among destroyed homes and buildings. The U.S. death toll from Ian has risen to more than 100 people from Florida to the state of North Carolina, with the majority of the fatalities in Florida. More than 50 deaths were reported in Florida’s Lee County, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Ian when it came ashore. Reuters says another 21 deaths have been reported by state officials from nine other counties.
Four deaths were reported in North Carolina.
Lee County includes the hard-hit areas of Fort Myers and Sanibel and Pine Islands. The two barrier islands are cut off from the mainland after Ian destroyed the only bridges that connected them, prompting rescue crews to drop supplies by helicopter on Pine Island. Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters Monday that temporary bridges will be built to reconnect Sanibel and Pine Islands to the mainland.
DeSantis on Monday defended officials who have come under increasing scrutiny over the timing of their evacuation orders.
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Florida Wednesday. The Bidens visited Puerto Rico Monday to get a first-hand look at the devastation from Hurricane Fiona, which struck the island just days before the emergence of Hurricane Ian.