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‘It’s a nightmare, but we’re alive’: After Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers residents mourn low-lying neighborhoods

Written by on October 1, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Caught in his dwelling in a flooded neighborhood, Charlie Saah felt dizzy Friday morning and referred to as 911.

It was his fourth day with out kidney dialysis therapy.

Dialysis facilities have been closed. Saah’s generator now not labored. The streets of his South Fort Myers, Florida neighborhood have been inundated with water, doorsteps flush to the waterline. Hurricane Ian introduced 16 inches of water into Saah’s storage.

“All the pieces’s ruined, the automobile batteries are useless,” Saah stated after rescue males drove him to an ambulance via the waterlogged road on a army jeep. “I’m joyful to be out.”

Hurricane Ian’s torrential storm surge and rain left behind a path of destruction. The distinction between neighborhoods was stark: Throughout the road from Saah’s flooded neighborhood of colourful cottages stood a yacht and nation membership, and down the block, tall sturdy villas. Farther down, cellular houses have been torn aside in trailer dwelling parks and RV resorts.

On San Carlos Island, 5 miles south earlier than the bridge to decimated Fort Myers Seashore, boats have been washed ashore to small single-story buying plazas, warehouses and cellular dwelling neighborhoods, crushing vans and automobiles beneath them surrounded by tangles of energy strains.

A boat washed up ashore during Hurricane Ian in Ft. Myers, Florida.

San Carlos Isle Maritime Park, a neighborhood of trailer houses and residences tucked on the coast by a shrimp market and marinas, housed working-class residents – handymen, restaurant and fisheries staff. Many rode out the storm of their houses.

Fort Myers resident Charlie Saah, a dialysis patient, is pictured Friday morning, Sept. 30, after being stuck in his home. Saah couldn't receive treatments for four days as floodwater inundated his neighborhood after Category 4 Hurricane Ian churned into Southwest Florida Wednesday.

Native bike builder, Joe Fernandez, works within the neighborhood. He stayed so he may assist his neighbors, a few of whom are immigrants who he stated have been afraid to shelter elsewhere or search assist.

“I am younger. I can swim. I can keep behind,” he stated. “There’s quite a lot of outdated individuals over right here that have been residing the precise American dream… A whole lot of these individuals, they could not go nowhere, as a result of they did not have no one.”

Joe Fernandez, 31, is pictured in his motorcycle workshop, filled with water after Hurricane Ian.

The Cape Coral-Ft. Myers metropolitan space ranks No. 14 nationwide in earnings inequality, in response to a Economic Policy Institute Report. Florida ranks No. 2 of 50 states.

On Friday morning, the 31-year-old was grilling salmon fillets for residents as his 4 pitbulls perused the disfigured panorama.

“This is not truthful. That is dangerous. It is actually dangerous. Come on, I imply – it’s been virtually three days. No one has come checked on these individuals,” he stated. “These individuals ate yesterday as a result of we cooked. These individuals drank water yesterday as a result of we introduced water.”

The water had risen as much as the second flooring of Fernandez’s neighborhood store. He stated 14 and 15 of his neighbors at the moment are homeless.

“I’ve some stuff I can share with all these individuals,” he stated. “Although I misplaced every little thing too. However any person wants to assist them. Any individual.”

Carlos Hernandez shows the damage Friday morning, Sept. 30, in his San Carlos Isle Maritime Park neighborhood after Hurricane Ian.

Fernandez stated there are nonetheless many lacking from the neighborhood. Carlos Hernandez, a resident, hasn’t heard from his pal Lionel, a restaurant employee, for days. Nobody has.

“I hope he’s wonderful,” stated Hernandez, who sheltered with greater than a dozen others on the second flooring of his now-muddied residence constructing.

Because the winds howled, he broke open a window downstairs to save lots of a neighbor who he heard yelling. The person was clinging to a pillow, floating inside his residence. Hernandez watched as one other neighbor virtually drowned. She’s now within the hospital, he stated.

Hernandez has lived right here for 20 years. The Occasions Sq. restaurant the place he works over the bridge in Fort Myers Seashore is leveled.

A neighborhood off McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers, Florida, is flooded on Friday morning after Category 4 Hurricane Ian churned into the area on Wednesday.

“That is like catastrophic,” he stated. “First time on the bridge, once I simply see the seaside and Occasions Sq., it made me cry.”

In one other cellular dwelling neighborhood a couple of mile north, there have been few turbines and loud shrieks of mangled metallic may very well be heard as residents pulled particles via yards.

Bob Palmer, 83, has been residing in his trailer since 1994.  Palmer, a former hydraulic repairman within the U.S. Air Drive, rode out the storm on his mattress. The 4 inches of rain in his dwelling had receded, and the air was damp. His neighborhood introduced him water and checked on him.

Bob Palmer, 83, poses for a photo in his Ft. Myers, Florida, mobile home, two days after Hurricane Ian.

“I can’t do a lot anymore. That aggravates me,” he stated. “This campground is sort of a household. I’m very blessed to have good associates.”

In the meantime, half of Sharon Popham’s trailer dwelling was shattered. The 72-year-old and her niece tried salvaging what they might Friday morning, tiptoeing round damaged glass. Popham worries about displacing her disabled son.

She doesn’t have a job to return to – the sandal manufacturing unit she labored at was on Fort Myers Seashore. “There’s nothing there (now),” she stated. “I am making an attempt to save lots of as a lot as I can … I’ve already utilized to FEMA.”

At MaryAnn Galante’s cellular dwelling, home windows have been blown out, “however we’re all alive,” she stated. She and her daughter have been strolling to a meals aid.

“It’s very, very scary wanting down roads and all you see is water, hanging streetlights,” she stated. “It is a nightmare, however we’re alive.”

Although water broken the within of her cellular dwelling, she’s grateful it nonetheless stands. “I’ll have to scrub ultimately, if we ever get plumbing and stuff to scrub,” she stated.

Galante and her husband, a mechanic, and her daughter, who works at WalMart, moved right here a 12 months in the past. She’s skilled hurricanes earlier than. However this one, she stated, was completely different.

“I really feel like I am in a warfare zone,” she stated. “That is simply horrific.”

Fort Myers resident Sharon Popham assesses damage from Hurricane Ian at her mobile home on Friday morning.

Attain Nada Hassanein at nhassanein@usatoday.com or on Twitter @nhassanein_.