Floridians trapped, 2.5M without power as Ian weakens

Hurricane Ian

SARASOTA, FL – SEPTEMBER 28: Motorists travel across the John Ringling Causeway as Hurricane Ian churns to the south on September 28, 2022 in Sarasota, Florida. The storm made a U.S. landfall at Cayo Costa, Florida this afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds over 140 miles per hour in some areas. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — As Hurricane Ian pummels through Florida, many residents are picking up the pieces after the storm’s heavy rains and damaging winds left a trail of destruction and many residents without electricity in its wake.

The majority of those outages are located in the areas where Ian came ashore Wednesday, but more outages are being reported in central and east-central Florida across the I-4 Corridor as the storm begins to cross over to the Atlantic side of the state.

Nearly 2.6 million Floridians are without power as of 9 a.m. Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 1.1 million are without power in the Tampa Bay area.

Here are the counties that have been hardest hit, all of them in the southwest portion of the state:

  • Lee County: 420,172 residents without power
  • Collier 206,049 residents without power
  • Charlotte County: 116,828 residents without power
  • DeSoto County: 17,198 residents without power
  • Hardee County: 9,504 residents without power

Thousands of line workers are already assembled in the northern part of the state, ready to move in whenever it’s safe. Some of them come from as far away as Texas and Illinois.

Ian left a path of destruction, trapping people in flooded homes, cutting off the only bridge to a barrier island, and damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit.

In Port Charlotte, the storm surge flooded a hospital’s emergency room even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing hospital staff to evacuate their sickest patients — some on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-size hospital spans four floors, but patients crowded into two because of the damage, and more were expected with people injured from the storm needing help.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

No deaths were reported in the United States from Ian by late Wednesday. But a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West.

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search-and-rescue mission for 23 people and managed to find three survivors about two miles south of the Florida Keys, officials said. Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 16 remaining migrants.

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 U.S. flights on Thursday.

According to FlightAware.com, 1,983 flights have been canceled for Thursday and 914 Friday flights have been scrapped. Airlines canceled 403 flights Tuesday ahead of the storm.

The hurricane is causing significant disruptions to U.S. air travel, especially in the southeast United States. Since Tuesday, airlines have canceled more than 5,000 flights through Friday.

Airlines canceled 2,163 flights Wednesday as a number of Florida airports temporarily halted operations, including Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota-Bradenton, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Naples and St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

The Orlando airport said it expects to resume commercial operations sometime on Friday. The Tampa airport said it will be closed through at least Thursday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

© 1998 - 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation

Elections 2022

More Elections 2022