Search, recovery missions underway in Lee County as Hurricane Ian forces thousands to evacuate

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – Lee County Sherriff Carmine Marceno held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the city’s search and rescue recovery mission due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.

City officials in southwest Florida also confirmed that they are working diligently to get a bridge built on Pine Island by the weekend, which will help the flow of traffic in the crowded, damaged areas.

Authorities said they are also sending supplies to residents of Fort Myers Beach and its surrounding areas.

According to officials, the search rescue and recovery mission teams are currently in three different phases.

Search and rescue teams are working through the damage since it’s hard to recognize what the property was, where the property lines are located and figure out who was living there.

Officials said the third phase which they are not in just yet, will focus on bringing cadaver dogs and assessing the area.

Authorities said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in Lee County, as far as looters are concerned.

Sherriff Marceno confirmed that 4 arrests were made in the Pine Island area due to looting.

With a lot of work still left to be done, authorities said that they are hoping the search and recovery process will be completed by October 8.

Local 10′s Bridgette Matter spotted neighbors at a mobile home park who survived by cramming into a second story, one-bedroom apartment on San Carlos Island.

Temple Condone, a resident of Sunnyland Court, a mobile home park on the island, told Local 10 News that the storm surge became worrysome.

“I was scared--I was really scared--started to panic,” said Condone. “The water is getting higher.”

When water began to rise, Condone and her other neighbors ran to Carlos Hernandez’s home on the second floor.

“It was scary,” said Hernandez. “ I never had this experience in my life.”

Hernandez said about 21 people were huddled in the 1 bedroom unit as hurricane Ian lashed onto the coast.

During the storm, neighbors told Local 10 they heard loud, crashing sounds and banging noises.

The banging noise came from another neighbor, Robert Heather in the unit below who said he was trapped.

Hernandez said he found a hammer to break a window and pulled Heather out who says he didn’t have much time left before he would likely drown.

“I couldn’t get out,” said Heather. “ I would have got onto that counter and stood up to the top as high as I could.”

Temple says she filed a FEMA application for disaster relief, but despite losing everything, she told Local 10 that it was denied.

“It said my application was denied,” said Temple. “I have nothing.

It’s another devastating blow to the woman who lost her home of more than 20 years.

Temple said she will now appeal her claim delaying any potential relief.

FEMA reminds people to take photos of the damage and keep receipts for anything purchased during the clean-up.

About the Authors:

Bridgette Matter joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in July 2021. Before moving to South Florida, she began her career in South Bend, Indiana and spent six years in Jacksonville as a reporter and weekend anchor.

Ryan Mackey is our newest digital journalist at WPLG. He is New York born and South Florida raised.