Thousands remain without power in Florida after Hurricane Ian

More than a quarter-million Floridians remained without power Wednesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

The tracking website recorded over 268,000 customers experiencing power outages in the state as of Wednesday night, including more than 152,000 in Lee County in southwestern Florida.

A Lee County official feared some outages could last as long as a month.

“Well, as you could see from the damage, this was a catastrophic event for our community,” said public relations director Karen Ryan of the Lee County Electrical Cooperative. “Irma and many other hurricanes — I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude in our area.”

Cape Coral and Fort Myers are among the cities in Lee County, where tracks more than 487,000 total customers.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida last week as a Category 4 storm, causing 4 million Floridians to experience power outages, as well as more than 1.1 million between North Carolina and South Carolina.

Florida’s death toll came to 105 on Tuesday, including 55 in Lee County alone, according to officials.

President Biden visited Fort Myers on Wednesday alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis, a political foe who has recently become his partner in reassuring Floridians. Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Republicans and frequent critics of the Democratic president, joined the group, too.

“Today we have one job and only one job, and that’s to make sure the people in Florida get everything they need to fully, thoroughly recover,” Biden said. “Later, after the television cameras have moved on, we’re still going to be here with you.”

DeSantis, who clashed with Biden over COVID pandemic protocols and other political issues, praised the federal government’s disaster response effort.

“We are cutting through the red tape and that’s from local government, state government, all the way up to the president,” said DeSantis, who’s believed to be mulling a run for the GOP presidential nomination.

“We appreciate the team effort.”

That undertaking reached some of Florida’s Gulf Coast barrier islands this week. People who stayed behind on the islands had been cut off from the mainland as bridges were washed out and destroyed by the storm. Pine Island, which has about 9,000 year-round residents, was one of the islands that had been cut off.

“We feel as a community that if we leave the island — abandon it — nobody is going to take care of that problem of fixing our road in and out,” resident Leslie Arias said.

DeSantis said a temporary bridge, crucial to restoring vital services on the island, would be in place by Thursday. Even amid the destruction, Arias said she was heartened by the response of people from all over who chipped in to help out.

“We have now gathered a lot of resources, not only donations but volunteers as well,” Arias said. “It’s a wonderful thing to see how the community has come together. In every end of the island … there is a family member or a neighbor helping that other neighbor.”

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