FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – Hurricane Ian pummeled through the town of Fort Myers Beach one year ago Thursday, leaving a path of devastation behind.
“We lost the house, two cars, the golf cart and it (the house) was bulldozed down,” resident Donna Murray said.
The catastrophic storm ripped apart businesses and leveled buildings and houses. Hurricane Ian left 16 people dead in Lee County.
“We live in a two-story condo right off Kelly and we had 30 inches of water on our first floor of our condo,” Joan Schockman said.
“It was very scary,” a fellow resident identified only as Kathy said.
On Thursday, Fort Myers Beach residents recalled the moments the devastating storm surge came into their homes.
Michael Schutting was at the Periwinkle Hotel when the storm hit.
“The water kept rising and rising and rising, and all of a sudden, the building lifted off the pilings,” he said.
Schutting told Local 10 News’ Annaliese Garcia that he grabbed his dogs and his girlfriend and they swam over to a palm tree, where they held on for dear life for over four hours while rain poured down and the storm surge came in.
“We never knew what was going to happen -- all kinds of debris was hitting us,” he said. “We were all the way to the top. I was just hoping the water wouldn’t rise anymore.”
One year later, there are clear signs of rebuilding, but there is still destruction everywhere you turn.
Many businesses remain empty, untouched and destroyed.
“It was pretty devastating coming back the next day. All the traffic lights were out. You know, I pretty much cried most of the way home,” resident Tom Tomlinson said.
Days after the storm, piles and piles of debris showered the flattened town.
On Thursday, residents along with local and state leaders looked back on the day the storm hit. The mayor, lieutenant governor and other elected officials stood together to unveil the new clock in Times Square.
“We just try to make progress every single day,” Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers said. “And then there will be more progress the next day and then the next week and then the next month. So we’ll get there eventually, it’s just it won’t, unfortunately, be as fast as we’d like it, but we’ll get there.”