In Ian’s ‘ground zero,’ destruction, regrets abound as some wonder whether to rebuild

Sheriff shows Local 10 News devastation in Fort Myers Beach

Lee County's sheriff gave Local 10 News a tour of the devastation.

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – Lee County’s sheriff called Fort Myers Beach the “ground zero of devastation” as he gave Local 10 News a tour of the island Friday, which was decimated after Hurricane Ian’s landfall Wednesday.

The storm flattened buildings, homes and businesses, shattered chunks of heavy concrete and spread them out along the ocean.

After punishing winds and storm surge, a delightful beach town became covered in dust and debris.

“I‘ve never seen anything like this in my life either,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said. “I mean, this is pure devastation.”

The town also lost its pier.

“I‘ve walked that pier so many times, greeted people, said hello as a tourist attraction, people loved it,” Marceno said. “It’s gone in a flash.

The storm’s aftermath also provided a clear contrast: old construction fared much worse than new.

Residents of Fort Myers Beach are now left to clean up the unimaginable devastation.

Many tell Local 10 News that they regret trying to ride out the storm.

Neighbors deal with aftermath in Fort Myers Beach:

Some residents say they regret not evacuating after Hurricane Ian destroyed Fort Myers Beach.

Michelle Luciano said she had to practically force her mother to evacuate. Most of her neighbors did not and are now dealing with the consequences of having stayed behind.

“A lot of people didn’t heed the warning because they were like ‘Irma wasn’t so bad,’ or ‘Irma turned early. It didn’t do what it was supposed to do,’” Luciano said. “This one didn’t do that. You’ve got to leave when they tell you to leave.”

Several neighbors told Local 10 News they had no property insurance because they either couldn’t afford it or couldn’t find a company to insure them.

Some had to climb on their roofs to avoid drowning in the storm surge.

Many will now have to decide whether to stay in the area or leave.

One of those residents is Greg Anerino, who lives on Sanibel, which was also hit hard by the storm.

Sanibel destruction:

Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel were decimated by Hurricane Ian's landfall Wednesday.

I‘ve been there 30 years and I lost everything,” Anerino said.

Local 10 News met him moments after search and rescue teams brought him to safety.

“A tornado hit my top of my house,” he said. “I was with these cats in the back bedroom, and I actually saw the roof lift off. And then 10 feet of water came in.”

The only thing Anerino had left was his three cats and a suitcase full of items.

He wondered whether rebuilding was even worth it.

About the Authors:

Annaliese Garcia joined Local 10 News in January 2020. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism. She began her career at Univision. Before arriving at Local 10, she was with NBC2 (WBBH-TV) covering Southwest Florida. She's glad to be back in Miami!

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.