Floridians endure slow wait for power knocked out by Ian

Tropical_Weather_Florida_79872 A member of the Florida National Guard helps stack emergency supplies that arrived by boat during flooding along the Peace River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Arcadia, Fla., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_64219 William Merman, left, and his friend Leaf Connor walk through floodwater in Connor's neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in North Port, Fla., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_03210 Flooded campers are seen at the Peace River Campground in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Arcadia, Fla., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_86805 Residents are evacuated by airboat through floodwaters along the Peace River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Arcadia, Fla., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_01920 J.C. Derison, a DeSoto County commissioner, who is using his airboat along with other citizen volunteers, carries an oxygen tank as he evacuates residents during flooding along the Peace River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Arcadia, Fla., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Electricity_22817 Workers for Florida Power and Electric repair a power line damaged by Hurricane Ian in Naples, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. The utility said Monday that it expects to have nearly all power restored to its customers with habitable homes by the end of the week.
Tropical_Weather_Electricity_40497 Florida Power and Light CEO Eric Silagy visits workers restoring power in Naples, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Silagy says that he expects crews to be finished restoring power to habitable homes impacted by Hurricane Ian by the end of the week.
Tropical_Weather_Virginia_78118 Despite being covered by water, some drivers brave the roads closed in Virginia Beach, Va., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Virginia_77397 Surfers take advantage of the large waves the afternoon's severe weather brought to the usually calm Chic's Beach neighborhood of Virginia Beach, Va., Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_59652 Residents behind a "you loot, we shoot" sign clean up their flooded property Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Residents in the area continue cleaning up after Hurricane Ian came ashore along Florida's west coast last week.
Tropical_Weather_88171 Residents drive through a flooded neighborhood Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Rivers overflowed their banks from the effects of Hurricane Ian when the storm made landfall last week along Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_88123 Andre McCourt throws away water logged furniture from his home Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Residents were cleaning up flooding damage after Hurricane Ian came ashore last week.
Tropical_Weather_83119 Jordan Cromer carries water logged trash out of his home Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Residents along Florida's west coast are cleaning up damage after Hurricane Ian made landfall last week.
Tropical_Weather_45707 Residents clean up water soaked furniture from their homes Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Residents along Florida's west coast continue to clean up after Hurricane Ian made landfall last week.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_61692 Christina Barrett walks among the water damaged furniture outside her home Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla. Residents along Florida's west coast are continuing to clean up after Hurricane Ian made landfall last week.
Tropical_Weather_27480 Ron Audette removes water soaked memorabilia from his storm-damaged home after Hurricane Ian, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in North Port, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Virginia_Flooding_09273 Vehicles make their way through floodwaters caused in part to the remnants of Hurricane Ian in the Larchmont neighborhood of Norfolk, Va.,on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_00771 Gerry Arnold leaves Pine Island, Fla., after gathering a few belongings from his home after Hurricane Ian left behind widespread damage across the city on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_42234 Volunteers Joe Lee from Fuel Relief Fund and Jason Duggar from Medic Corp distributes fuel to residents of Pine Island, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_88819 Residents pick up free perishable food items at a Publix in Pine Island, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_83325 Residents of Pine Island, Fla., leave the island by boat after Hurricane Ian left widespread damage across the island, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_88616 A person walks past some of the widespread damage left in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Pine Island, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_96150 Battered and flooded residences are shown after Hurricane Ian leaves behind widespread damage across Pine Island, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Ian may be long gone from Florida, but workers on the ground were pushing ahead Tuesday to restore power and search for anyone still trapped inside flooded or damaged homes.

The number of storm-related deaths has risen to at least 84 in recent days, both because of the dangers posed by cleaning up and as search and rescue crews comb through the hardest-hit areas. Officials said that as of Monday, more than 2,350 people had been rescued throughout the state.

At least 75 people were killed in Florida, five in North Carolina, three in Cuba and one in Virginia since Ian made landfall on the Caribbean island on Sept. 27, a day before it reached Florida’s Gulf Coast. After churning northeastward into the Atlantic, the hurricane made another landfall in South Carolina before pushing into the mid-Atlantic states.

There have been deaths in vehicle wrecks, drownings and accidents. A man drowned after becoming trapped under a vehicle. Another got trapped trying to climb through a window. And a woman died when a gust of wind knocked her off her porch while she was smoking a cigarette as the storm approached, authorities said.

In hardest-hit Lee County, Florida, all 45 people killed by the hurricane were over age 50.

As floodwaters begin to recede, power restoration has become job one.

In Naples, Kelly Sedgwick was just seeing news footage Monday of the devastation. Her electricity was restored four days after the hurricane slammed into her community of roughly 22,000 people. She praised the crews for their hard work: “They’ve done a remarkable job.”

A few miles north along the coast in Bonita Springs, Catalina Mejilla’s family wasn’t as lucky. She was still using a borrowed generator to try to keep her kids and their grandfather cool as temperatures in the typically humid area reached the upper 80s (about 30 degrees Celsius).

“The heat is unbearable,” Mejilla said. “When there’s no power … we can’t make food, we don’t have gas.” Her mother has trouble breathing and needed to go to a friend’s house with electricity.

Ian knocked out power to 2.6 million customers across Florida after it roared ashore with 150 mph (241 kph) winds and a powerful storm surge. State officials said they expect power to be restored by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact.

About 400,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without power Tuesday.

Eric Silagy, Chairman and CEO of Florida Power & Light — the largest power provider in the state — said he understands the frustration and that 21,000 utility workers from 30 states are working as hard as they can to restore power as quickly as possible. The utility expects to have power restored to 95% of its service areas by the end of the day Friday, he said.

The remaining 5% are mostly special situations where it’s difficult to restore electricity, such as the home being so damaged it can’t receive power or the area still being flooded. Those outages don’t include customers whose homes or businesses were destroyed.

Another major electricity provider in the hard-hit coastal region, Lee County Electric Cooperative, said Monday that it expects to hit the 95% mark by the end of Saturday. That figure doesn’t include barrier islands such as Sanibel that are in its service area.

Power restoration is always a key challenge after major hurricanes, when high winds and flying debris can topple power lines or major parts of the electricity infrastructure.

Silagy said the utility has invested $4 billion over the last 10 years to harden its infrastructure, doing things like burying more power lines, noting that 40% of its distribution system is now underground. The utility is also using more technology such as drones that can stay aloft for hours to get a better picture of damage, and sensors at substations that alert the utility to flooding so it can shut off parts of the system before the water arrives.

Silagy said he saw during Ian where those investments paid off. Concrete utility poles remained standing at Fort Myers Beach, where many homes and businesses were wiped away. The company also didn’t lose a single transmission structure in the 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) it covers in Florida.

Elsewhere, the hurricane’s remnants, now a nor’easter, were not done with the United States. Heavy rain fell Tuesday from Philadelphia to Boston, although not enough to cause flooding. The storm’s onshore winds are causing some minor ocean flooding at high tide from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Long Island, New York.

“If people had not heeded warnings, I think it could have been a lot worse,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday as he reviewed how his state dealt with the storm.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit Florida on Wednesday. The president was in Puerto Rico on Monday, promising to “rebuild it all” after Hurricane Fiona knocked out all power to the island two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, in Florida neighborhoods still without power, many residents have been sharing generators to keep things like refrigerators cool, and using outdoor grills to cook.

In Bonita Springs, Paula Arbuckle was sitting outside her one-story home while the sound of the generator under her carport roared. She bought a generator after Hurricane Irma left her neighborhood without power in 2017. She hadn’t used it since, but after Ian took out the lights, she’s been sharing it with her next-door neighbor. Arbuckle said it’s difficult being without power.

“But I’m not the only one,” she said. Gesturing to her neighbor’s house she said: “I have a generator. They have a little baby over there. So we’re sharing the generator between the two homes.”


Associated Press reporters Bobby Caina Calvan in Fort Myers; Frieda Frisaro and David Fischer in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando; Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.


This story has been updated to correct the year of Hurricane Irma to 2017, not 2018.


For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: apnews.com/hub/hurricanes

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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