Search and rescue teams in Florida returned Monday to check tens of thousands of homes and businesses along the state’s Gulf of Mexico coast after completing an initial search in the area devastated by Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms to date. reach the United States.
First responders made a quick tour of about 45,000 homes and businesses after the Category 4 storm flooded properties or completely swept them away, said Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s director of emergency management.
“We’ve been to almost every address,” he said, noting that teams are now conducting a more thorough search. “We think we scoured it all too quickly. Now let’s go back for a second look.”
Since Ian arrived on the mainland with maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h, at least 58 storm-related deaths have been confirmed by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Office. Authorities in Lee and Charlotte counties, the hardest hit in the state, reported another 27 deaths.
“I’m not saying we won’t find anyone else. We can find other people,” Guthrie said of the searches.
Lee County, home to Fort Myers, had some of the worst destruction. Emergency officials were criticized by residents for a perceived delay in issuing an evacuation order as the storm advanced south of its previous expected target of Tampa, which remained relatively unharmed.
“Emergency management directors don’t have a crystal ball. I believe Lee County made the best decision possible at the time,” Guthrie said, noting that evacuation decisions are made at the local level.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta)