FORT MYERS BEACH, FL. – Our coverage of Hurricane Ian’s aftermath continues. Our crews got access to where the storm hit the hardest and spoke with locals about the long road to recovery.
“It’s pretty scary if you look at the size of these boats and the power involved lifting them and tossing them around like toys,” said Joe Schonewolf. He took us around a marina next to Fort Myers Beach. He was one of a few people who stayed on their boats during the storm.
“This is where I came the next morning asking if anyone needed help,” recalled Schonewolf.
He was in disbelief how much the hurricane damaged and in some cases, sunk other nearby boats.
“There was someone who was rescued on this boat right here, they had a family and a dog on board,” said Schonewolf. “Coast Guard came and got them to slide on the side of the boat.”
And over on Fort Myers Beach, locals and relief workers are trying to clean up what’s left behind.
Some locals who spoke with us off camera were having a hard time putting word together coming back to some businesses that they knew, loved or even worked at for decades. We’re told that pile of debris was once a restaurant and all that’s left are poles.
Most of the buildings are so badly damaged, officials said it’s become a safety hazard to be nearby them. We’re told the next step in the recovery efforts will be a long clean up process: making sure no more fuel from the boats are spilling into the water, the debris cleaned up and the list continues.
Schonewolf said in situations like this, some might take advantage by looting but he’s also seen the good in people following the storm, too. Schonewolf and others have pitched in, bringing food and other supplies to those who need it the most and said Fort Myers will recover from this tragedy.
“It’s something that you have to respect, it’s mother nature, it’s going to happen,” said Schonewolf. “This year it was Fort Myers Beach. Just build it stronger and be prepared for the next storm that will come.”