Questions grow over timing of Hurricane Ian evacuation orders

Death toll surpasses 100

The race to save the vulnerable continued days after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – The race to save the vulnerable continues days after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, and now the death toll has surpassed 100.

On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard helped rescue residents from Pine Island.

The one road connecting the community to the mainland was destroyed by the storm.

The only way to the island now is by air or water.

Celeste Jones and her husband, Russell, were one of many giving people rides and delivering supplies.

“We want to help anybody we can,” Celeste Jones said.

There’s no power and water on Pine Island. Resident Mary Goddard said she’s looking forward to a warm meal.

“(And) a shower,” she said.

Watch Local 10 News’ Christian De La Rosa’s 6pm report below:

It's been five days since Hurricane Ian hit Lee County, and many people are still trying to get out of Pine Island.

Local 10 News met Marilyn Trejo with her three children waiting on a delivery of food and water, but like many, they don’t want to leave.

“(It’s) horrible, there’s not a lot of resources out here,” Marilyn Trejo said.

Carlos Garcia gave us a ride further inland. Some homes were crushed, others still stood.

“It was scary, I’m not going to lie,” Garcia said. “It was scary. The reason I stayed here was because I have 3 dogs.”

Many choosing to stay are trying to clean up, rebuild and watch over whatever they have left.

“Some people might ask why would you not leave?” Trejo said. “Well, I mean there’s nothing out there for us. Everything we have known is here. ou can’t jut get up and go. What about the homes? How about the looting and everything?”

Watch Local 10 News’ Christian De La Rosa’s 5pm report below:

It's been five days since Hurricane Ian hit Lee County, and many people are still trying to get out of Pine Island.

Questions remained over whether evacuations came early enough.

State and local officials said they believe they made the best decisions they could have at the time.

“I don’t think it would have made a difference,” Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said. “We start pushing hurricane awareness in June. We push people to have a plane for evacuation if need be. If you plan, you don’t panic. The most predictable thing about a hurricane is that it’s unpredictable.”

“Fire chiefs and sheriffs made the best decision they felt was right for their community at the time,” said Kevin Guthrie, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the response would be evaluated but also defended local authorities.

“Of course you look to see what you can do better, but I just think we need to focus on getting people where they need to be,” DeSantis said.

Many Pine Island residents told Local 10 News that by time they did receive the evacuation orders, less than 24 hours before the storm, they wanted to leave, but, by then, it was simply too dangerous to do so.

The death count on Pine Island remains unclear, but groups on the ground expect it to be devastatingly high.


About the Author:

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.