Hurricane Ian Leaves Catastrophic Flooding and Damage Across Florida

Rescue workers in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. Epic rain and high winds pounded much of central Florida the day after Hurricane Ian made landfall. (© Phelan M. Ebenhack/EBENP, via Associated Press)

The emergency call came from the nursing home shortly after 5 a.m.: Water was seeping into the low-slung, low-lying complex called Avante at Orlando and threatening its 106 residents, some of them too frail to walk.

By daybreak, dozens of rescue workers had descended on Avante, which bills itself as a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The water in the building was about a foot deep, but it was perhaps as high as three feet in the parking lot outside. Many of the patients, in their 80s or 90s, were wheeled out on cots, their white sheets billowing in the whipping winds trailing Hurricane Ian, their faces filled with fear and confusion.

Soon, however, they were safe — if shaken and wet — in vans and buses bound for shelters and hospitals.

As epic rain and high wind pounded much of central Florida on Thursday, a picture emerged of what the storm had wrought, from wrenching catastrophe to mere gale-force inconvenience. The battered landscape ranged from utter devastation on the southwestern coast to wearily familiar flooding in St. Augustine near the state’s northeastern edge.

Rescue teams worked feverishly to retrieve people from the barrier islands near Cape Coral, and wrecked boats and drifts of rotting debris piled up along the eviscerated beach in Fort Myers. In Arcadia, Fla., about an hour to the north, the quaint historic district was a ravaged display of broken glass and blown-out storefronts. Water had swallowed a swath of West Oak Street, on the east end of the bridge that spans Peace River, and a DeSoto County Sheriff’s deputy implored a line of drivers not to attempt to cross on Thursday.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Richard Fausset, Campbell Robertson and Shawn Hubler