After Hurricane Ian was gone, ‘then all the water came’: Floodwaters stun Florida’s DeSoto County

Written by on October 3, 2022

ARCADIA, Florida — Tia Lias thought she was doing a pleasant factor, driving her children to get Chinese language meals the day after Hurricane Ian tore by means of their rural city 50 miles inland from the coast.

She thought they’d admire a scorching meal, a selection of meals. In any case, they’d survived the catastrophic storm largely unscathed. Even their chickens had been OK, though their coop flew away.

However when the three crossed the low-lying bridge over the Peace River of their Kia Sorrento, they discovered the restaurant was with out energy, serving solely a handful of dishes. They ordered crab wontons and pork spare ribs and turned towards their house, about 50 miles from Fort Myers.

They did not make it.

“We had been solely on the town for 15 minutes. It got here up that quick,” Lias informed USA TODAY.

Road signs stick out of the water in a flooded area of DeSoto County, Florida, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

“It” had been the floodwaters gushing down the Peace River. Usually winding in lazy loops alongside the west facet of city, the river overflowed its banks Thursday, flooding as many as 2,000 properties and at the very least 100 RVs wherein individuals had been residing, authorities mentioned.

The flooding pushed by 20 inches of rain dropped by Ian blocked a number of roads in DeSoto County, turning some neighborhoods into islands. Along with flooding properties, the waters engulfed a gasoline station and the Peace River Campground, the place about 150 individuals lived year-round, officers mentioned.

THESE FLORIDIANS GATHERED FOR CHURCH IN FORT MYERS: They brought their Hurricane Ian survival stories.


The world usually will get about 51 inches of annual rainfall, that means Ian dropped half a yr’s price of precipitation in mere hours. Officers mentioned regardless of the injury, they obtained no studies of significant damage or deaths.

On Sunday, lingering and widespread energy outages and poor cell service hampered evacuation efforts through airboats with the assistance of the Florida Nationwide Guard. Authorities had been distributing water and ready-made meals to stranded individuals who did not wish to go away.

Lias, alternatively, sat in town facet of the flooding and struggled with what to do. Her mother was caught at their home with water, meals and gasoline provides dwindling. She wished Lias and her children to come back house, to experience issues out collectively.

An airboat captain evacuates people from flooded areas of DeSoto County, Florida, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

However Lias figured sticking nearer to what providers are nonetheless working made extra sense. As of Sunday, the three of them had already slept three nights of their SUV. Her daughter Khloe celebrated her ninth birthday within the again seat, with out presents – they’re ready for her at house.

“Nothing is regular. It makes you’re feeling like your life is in shambles, however our entire county too,” mentioned Lias, sitting on the grass by the river, yellow warning tape fluttering above her head. “If it wasn’t for me having some spare garments within the automobile, we’d don’t have anything.”

Native officers, the Florida Nationwide Guard and a rising military of volunteers are ferrying provides to the remoted areas with small boats and swamp-tour airboats, and extra volunteers handed out scorching meals, child provides and different requirements to individuals who ordinarily reside a five-minute drive from the shop. Boats buzzed forwards and backwards between the newly dubbed mainland and the island space to the west.

DeSoto County has about 35,000 full-time residents, though the inhabitants swells within the winter with snowbirds escaping the northern U.S., and at harvest time with migrant staff choosing oranges, watermelons and squash.

AFTER HURRICANE IAN CAME THE FLOODS: These people rallied to rescue residents, horses, cows

THERE ARE ‘NO EASY FIXES’ IN FLORIDA:But could Hurricane Ian’s havoc bring a call for better planning?

“It’s a blessing that individuals may help on this time as a result of these occasions are powerful,” mentioned Lizbeth Manriques, 20, as she helped her youthful brother juggle a number of items of bread and a Styrofoam container of rice and beans.

Authorities mentioned they’re ready to evacuate anybody who wished to depart, however acknowledged the pace at which the floodwaters rose caught them off-guard.

“We find out about hurricanes however flooding is a brand new factor for us,” mentioned DeSoto County Commissioner J.C. Deriso. “The storm, our neighborhood was fairly properly ready for. However the flood was fairly sudden. Rivers rise and fall yearly. However what we noticed was as soon as in a lifetime. Not less than we hope so.”

Volunteers hand out food in a flooded area of DeSoto County, Florida, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

Deriso mentioned the comparatively lesser wind injury from Ian could have lulled some individuals right into a false sense a safety. That is what occurred to Melanie George and their household, who boated to dry land Sunday afternoon to choose up a generator and meals.

“The storm glided by and you might nonetheless journey,” mentioned George, 55, clutching plastic luggage of meals and drinks. “After which all of the water got here.”

Signaling how dangerous the injury is, Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Arcadia on Sunday afternoon after touring injury in coastal areas. Like Deriso, the governor mentioned rescuers will proceed working so long as wanted – however that it is as much as Mom Nature to drop the water ranges earlier than a real restoration can start.

“That is such an enormous storm, introduced a lot water that you simply’re having principally what’s been a 500-year flood occasion right here in DeSoto County and in a number of the neighboring counties,” DeSantis informed reporters. “On the finish of the day, the waters must recede extra. It is making it troublesome for folk. We perceive that.”

‘WE GET IT LAST’:After Hurricane Ian hits Fort Myers, Black neighborhood residents say they aren’t counting on much help

The cab of a pickup pokes above the water in a flooded area of DeSoto County, Florida, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

Sitting on the curb close to the river, Lias mentioned she was glad DeSantis took the time to go to her hometown.

Her mother and father have lived in DeSoto County for about 20 years, and he or she purchased property about 14 years in the past, abandoning the noise of Fort Myers for the peace of the nation, the place she may increase her children. She nervous aloud about how a lot college they had been lacking after getting again on monitor after COVID-19 and fretted about having sufficient cash to purchase extra meals and gasoline.

However most of all, she nervous about what to do subsequent: Attempt to get again house to stick with her mother? Boat house and pressure her mother to depart? Or simply keep on the shore and sleep once more within the automobile.

As she talked, Khloe interrupted to remind everybody about her birthday and voted to go house so she may open her presents.

“We are able to’t management Mom Nature,” Lias mentioned. “As a lot as you need issues to be the identical once more, they’ll by no means be the identical.”

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